Friday, March 30, 2012

Beauty Review - Dolce and Gabbana Perfect Finish Creamy Foundation

As you know currently I only give reviews on items that knock my socks off.  So until companies are knocking on my blog door to have me review products it's only my five star winners. 




 There are a few things in life that I am uber particular about that I am willing to spend money on.  One is my hair and the other is my skin.  And as I age I get even more particular.  A perfectly matching natural foundation is a must have for me.  There is nothing worse then heavy cakey maskey looking foundation!  Ever seen someone with the dreaded ring around the face or a hard line at the jaw?  Terrible orange looking foundation or someone trying to pull off a suntanned look with too dark foundation?  Please match your skin and use a bit of bronzer!  A good foundation should look like your skin only better.

A bit about my skin.  Aging (I'm 36), super dry and sensitive, prone to product breakouts, quite a few sunspots (you young sun worshipers are going to regret it down the line) and lots of redness and broken capillaries (thank you tanning beds).

So I have been on the search for my holy grail foundation for quite some time now.  I always go in for a match and bring home a sample.  I started doing this as there were so many failures I got tired of returning the items.  Get a sample when possible, that's why there are offered.

Thus far the best I found was Clea de Peau and I bought it on the spot.  This was a treat and I could not believe I was spending this much money on foundation.  I think I started to shake when I handed over my credit card.  Let's not even talk about what it cost.  While I loved this foundation when I put it on by the end of the day it had turned powdery and clung to every dry spot on my face.  In the morning I looked like a china doll and at the end of the day I looked worked!  Not cute.  The shade I settled on was a bit too light but the next shade was a tad too dark. It was a bit of double edged sword because while I wasn't 100% happy it still blew everything else out of the water. And by everything else I do mean literally pretty much everything else.  When I met with people I planned to meet them as close to application as possible.  LOL

I was really holding off on buying another because of the cost and because I was only about 70% happy with it.  And then Dolce and Gabbana introduced their perfect finish foundation.  I read great things about it  I really wanted to try it but to my sadness it's really hard to get.  One it's high demand and two it is only carried at select Saks and Harrods.  I tried contacting Saks online both through chat and email trying to get a match based on my current shade and it was a nightmare.  PLEASE do not do this to yourself!  If you can walk into one, lucky you.  The closest to me is in another state.  I finally ended up contacting the counter at the New York store and spoke with a lovely RA named Michelle. 

Saks Fifth Avenue
New York Flagship Store
611 Fifth Avenue (between 49th
& 50th Streets)
New York, NY 10022
212.940.4949 

Michelle did exactly what I expected her to do.  She went to the Clea de Peau counter and matched it with my current shade.  I told her this was a bit light for me and I had yellow undertones.  She called me back and let me know she had chosen "creamy" and I paid over the phone.  I would've guessed "bisque" which was actually much lighter than my current shade and would've had to be returned.  The shade is spot on.

They offer 15 shades with a 15 spf.





You can layer this foundation so you can achieve either a very light natural or flawless application.  However even with additional layers it still looks and feels completely natural.  It doesn't feel like you have a ton of makeup sitting on your face.  It is hydrating and feels like a whisper on the skin.  This is the only way I can explain it.  It is so lightweight it feels like you have nothing on.  When I touched my skin it was baby soft.  It dried instead of staying moist and tacky like many foundations.  I found that it was not rubbing off on every possibly surface.  Being that my skin is already dryer than the Sahara no matter what I use I do not set with powder.  Using a powder dries my skin more and seems to accentuate lines on my face I didn't know I had.  No powder needed for me.

I prefer to use a stiple brush for foundation as it creates a smooth airbrushed finish.


 For application you need only the tiniest amount.  Yes it's expensive but it will last.  I have to use ten times the amount with inferior brands.  While the jar is very elegant it's very heavy.  I wish I was exaggerating but it weighs almost a pound. 9.3 ounces to exact.  And it's glass as you would expect so if you're clumsy please be careful.  I'm not big on jars for hygiene reasons.  Also it makes it easy to spill.  If you plan on taking this with you out on the town it will be like carrying a rock.  Also it leaks out the sides so expect a mess on the bottom of your purse.  I would transfer a small bit using the provided spatula into another small container for toting.

I found with many previous foundations my skin would be flaky at night when I removed them as if it had sucked the moisture right out of my skin. When I removed the D&G my skin was still hydrated.  No tightness no flake.  And 10 hours later it still looked great.  I touch my face quite a lot (bad habit) and by the end of the day I would've still been happily seen in public.  It did not sink into lines or pores.  It blended right into the skin and left a flawless finish. 

It retails for $66 per oz. but like I said this should last you a good bit.  Please do not try to use the saks.com color chart.  Everything looks like a shade of wood putty.  If you have to, go to the D&G site here.  However I highly suggest calling the Saks counter direct if you cannot go in and get matched.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Quick and Healthy Treat

OK ok it's not 100% healthy but when you are craving something really decadent this is a great substitute.  I eat pretty healthy so my taste buds think it's delicious.  And it takes but a minute to make.

You'll need:
peanut butter
1 rice cake
Hershey's Magic Shell

I personally use:
Lundberg organic brown rice cakes
Maranatha organic no stir crunchy peanut butter
Hershey Shell chocolate




Put peanut butter on your rice cake however much you desire and put in on a plate.  Top with your shell topping and pop it in the freezer for about 5 minutes or however long it takes to harden the topping.  You only want it to be just that long and no longer.  You don't want to make the rice cake harden.  And voila!  A pretty darn healthy treat especially if you were eying candy bars or worse!



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From The Workbench

Today I am working on another new design.  I have had this in my head for probably a year or more but didn't have a bench block.  I finally got a bench block and chasing hammer.  And this is what I came up with.  I wish I had the know how to really catch the "flash" as it's called in labradorite.  But I usually end up with mostly a dull gray with hints of flash.  I created some amethyst as well.  20 gauge solid sterling with soft tumbled stone.












Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photography Tips From A Pro

Like many things in life I find it best to get opinions from many different sources. Vanilla Extinction does breathtaking photography. She focuses mainly on nature subject. Her photos are absolutely exquisite. She shares some of her photography tips here:

"One thing I learned if you are taking photos indoors and the only decent window has very harsh light coming through it you can buy a white frosted shower curtain and tack it over the window you will have beautiful diffused light.

When shooting certain things, like flowers for instance have the light come from the side. Light head on will make some things look flat where side lighting gives dimension. 

Purple Delphinium by Vanilla Extinction
 
To enrich your lighting I have a piece of cardboard that I wrapped in aluminum foil. Hold it on the opposite side of where your lighting is coming from. It will bounce the light back onto your subject. You can have one side with the reflective side out and the other side with the dull side out. That will give different variations to your lighting. 

Outside light is actually the best light. If it is very sunny than take your shots in a shady spot just a few feet from the bright sun. It will keep you from getting really harsh shadows. 

In His Eyes by Vanilla Extinction

When I needed a black background I bought some black velour fabric. You can drape it over whatever is handy but make sure to keep your subject a foot or two away from the backgound. That will make the black look really black. Fabric makes great, inexpensive backdrops. I have used velour, satin, burlap for a little texture. Make sure the fabric drapes well.

Another tip is use a tripod whenever possible and when you do, disable your image stabilization. You don't need it then and it may cause some blur . These things work by looking for vibration and if they don't find any they could actually cause vibration.

I hope you can use some of these tips. One thing that is obvious but some people miss is to get down to the subject's level. Shooting straight down on a subject just doesn't give any special look. Using different angles gives interest."

Check out Vanilla's shop here:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/VanillaExtinction

Sunday, March 25, 2012

From The Workbench

This is the newest project I've been working on.  I've really been struggling to find motivation this month.  Sales are virtually non existent probably due to tax time.  And I recently lost my mother.  I needed to try my hand at something new and this is what I came up with. 

I had made my own prototypes months back.  I always try my items first to make sure everything holds up as it should and nothing is sticking or poking me.  I really hope these do well because I think these earrings look great and I will be able to offer them in different colors.

Since sterling silver prices continue to be sky high I wanted to keep this 20 gauge solid sterling for the perfect project.  I myself strangely don't wear earrings that often, but when I do this is more my style.  These big beautiful bangles are 20 gauge solid sterling silver with high quality faceted glass crystal.  The crystals shine with greens, yellows and a bit of purple.   Like many of my items I feel they are better in person.  I will have these listed along with another pair in aqua in the coming week.












Thursday, March 22, 2012

Introducing Hunter

Hunter is one of my newest models.  Expect to see more of him modeling the male unisex line.  He is wearing his own custom serpentine necklace.  He chose a gunmetal finish on an 18 inch leather cord.  As always a big thanks to Alena Fears for her photography.

Available now















Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Photography Tips For Your Online Shop

One of the most asked about and important aspects of an online shop is it’s photos.  A prospective purchaser has only the computer to envision your item.  You want to try to convey in a photo what one would see and feel if they were able to physically touch the item.  What is the color, the size, the texture?

I really struggled with my photography, and I still do now but luckily I have gotten much better.  I searched the net, asked questions in online forums and what I got was the deafening sound of crickets.  I even asked a couple of friends who do professional photography and they noted that jewelry is by far one of the hardest items to photograph.  So for the next two years I got really chummy with my camera.  I use a Cannon Powershot SX20IS.  However it is not so much about the camera as it is about the set up.  And photo editing software is your best friend.  I wasted a lot of time and money on set ups that just didn’t work for me.  Outdoor direct sun is too harsh and shadowing is too heavy to be diffused properly for up close items.  I tried doing it under a covered area in the shade and this also didn’t work as it gave a bluish cast to the photos.  I tried a light box.  What a waste of money this was.  I didn’t care for it AT ALL.  The light was very harsh and artificial looking.  And dealing with the reflection off of jewelry was a nightmare.  There are ways around this but again, more money.  I decided it wasn’t right for the look I was trying to convey.  If you are looking for a catalog type image this could work for you.  It will give clean crisp images, but for me they are a bit too sterile.  I am an artist so I wanted to have arty type images.

What has worked best for me is direct morning light between 9 am and 11 am through a window.  I hold up a piece of tracing paper between the window and the item as it help to diffuse and reflect the light.  It helps cut down on shadow and reflections of the camera or items around the room.  You want to make sure you have your white balance set properly.  Play with your camera and figure out what looks best.  I always use a cloudy day setting. You will want to set your exposure also.  Exposure is the amount of light collected in the sensor.  Too much and it will be washed out and too little and it will appear too dark.  But it is better it be too dark then too light as darkness can be corrected in your editing.  Your goal is to get the best possible photo prior to edit.  For most items you are going to want to use your macro setting.  This is the setting on your digital camera with the little flower.  This is best for close ups of your items.  You will want to look at your camera manual to familiarize yourself with how these settings work. 



Bermuda Blue


As far as backgrounds props are nice but I feel they distract from the item.  You want the viewer to be clear on what you are selling and make sure nothing else is detracting from your item.  I use a large floor tile for my background.  You want a matte finish so there isn’t a lot of reflection and you want a light color, something neutral.  Also you don’t want a lot of texture especially with the macro setting.  

Finally a tripod.  You may feel as if you are holding relatively still but many cameras can pick up even the tiniest of shake causing your photo to just not be as clear as you would like.  I rarely use a tripod because of my set up as it doesn’t allow me to get close enough and easily get the angles I would like.  So I use the table to stabilize the camera.  Take lots of photos from different angles.  I freely hold my tracing paper so I can move it around and play with different amounts of light.  


Aventurine Necklace

Lastly you want a way to convey the size of the item as well as well as what it looks like on.  Descriptions are great but rarely is a customer going to sit down and break out a ruler to see what the dimensions you listed actually look like.  They are going to go by your photos.  So find a way to show size.  Hold it in your hand, put it next to a object such as a coin, and if it is an item to be worn show it so.  If you can get someone to model it for you wonderful.  And if not get a mannequin bust to do the job for you.  Boutique modeling is a wonderful way to get high quality photos in trade for you items. 





I did not learn overnight and there was a lot of trial and error.  Rome wasn’t built in a day so give yourself time to find out what works best for you and hopefully these tips will help get you on your way.  I will provide more tips and tricks for how to edit your photos in upcoming blog posts.

View my shop here:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/BellinaCreations

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feedback on Etsy

If you would like to skip to the how to simply scroll down to the colored font.

As an Etsy seller you know how important feedback is for your Etsy store.  It is the deciding factor for many buyers when considering whether or not to buy from you.  When you buy from a place like Etsy you aren't guaranteed a positive experience.  You are buying from individual sellers who all have different ways and rules for running their shops.  Positive feedback gives a buyer warm fuzzies and they feel as if they have made a good decision to buy from you.  Negative feedback in the same grain can cause would be buyers to run screaming from their computers in horror.  OK maybe that is a bit much but it can certainly send them off to a competitor. 

That being said I find that many of my buyers have never bought on Etsy before.  Some are downright nervous about buying for the first time.  They aren't sure how things work or how to navigate the site and Etsy is not always user friendly.  So time and time again I hear from shop owners saying "why aren't my customers leaving feedback?"  One they may not have ever been BACK to Etsy once they made their purchase or what I hear most frequently is they don't know how.  I almost never ask a buyer to leave feedback.  Frequently I will get an email or convo from the customer saying they are happy with their product and that is enough for me.  Rarely do those customers ever go back and leave actual feedback and I find it inappropriate to ask in most situations.

Ultimately feedback is optional for both buyer AND seller.  Many sellers will not leave feedback for customers until the customer leaves feedback first.  The transaction is not over for a seller until that customer is happy.  Sellers are held hostage by feedback.  I cannot tell you the amount of times I have heard about a seller leaving positive feedback for a buyer thinking they purchased and paid so they did their part.  A little while later there is a horror situation where the buyer tries to scam the seller and turns around and cancels the paypal transaction and tries to keep the item or two months later says I don't want this after it's been used and wants a a full refund etc.  The buyer turns around and gives the seller who 100% did their job a negative feedback.  And there is no way for the seller to retract the positive feedback now.  As a seller you cannot see buyer feedback like you can on sellers.  So if previous stores have also had bad experiences with the same buyers you cannot even view it.  This is one of the things as a seller you deal with on Etsy.  Like any place on the internet scammers are prevalent.  I too learned this lesson early on.  Thank the heavens that 99.9% of my buyers are a joy.

So onward to how to leave feedback.  I will show you both signed in and not.  Click on the photos to see them a bit bigger and in better detail.

If you are already signed in simply hover over your account and there will be a drop down list.  Click on feedback. 



This will bring you to your feedback screen where you will see your purchases (and sales if you are a seller).  




Select your experience level and put in your comment (if you choose to leave one).  And hit submit.  I choose to do them individually.  Remember to do one at a time.  If you try to do multiples on this screen it won't work.  Batch (or multiple) feedback is more for stores that want to leave feedback for a lot of customers at once.  So if you are a buyer don't worry about that bit.  Once you have left feedback for as many items as you want that's it.  You're all done!




Now if you are not signed into Etsy. Sign in of course.




Sometimes a box will pop up saying you need to leave feedback, but a lot of times it doesn't.  So look for this if you don't get the pop up.  If you do get the pop up you can click on that.



If no pop up box shows, simply click the link that says "click here to leave feedback "  and then follow the above instructions for leaving feedback.  It sounds more complicated then it is really but I hope this step by step makes it easier. 
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