Quirky Oak Artisan Jewelry

Hand crafted jewelry: bracelets, necklaces and more.


Joy is Free! Inspirational Quotes with my Personal Photos

Thank you all for the constant feedback I get from my post: How to make a light box for photographing jewelry.

I’m totally amazed at how many people contact me to thank me for the info I shared, or to compliment me on my jewelry photos.

Of course jewelry is not all I photograph. I love photographing nature in my beautiful state of Florida. I share my photos (as well as images taken by my dad) on my inspirational Facebook page Joy is Free.

Follow the page to get inspirational or uplifting quotes paired with my favorite photos. Here are a couple of my favorites … I took these photos at the incredible Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina:

Flower Garden at Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina

A view of one of the stunning flower gardens at Boone Hall Plantation.

Avenue of Oaks, Boone Hall Plantation

A lone weed under the towering Avenue of Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina.

Cheers, Caro 
Browse my Shops:
Enter my jewelry give-aways: facebook.com/QuirkyOak

Sign up here for my up-coming jewelry give-aways and new designs! I promise not to spam you.


Polyvore Sets | Find me on Polyvore

I guess you could say I’m hooked on Polyvore. And it wasn’t a slow addiction. If you’re not familiar with it, Polyvore’s a website that allows you to create fashion, décor or art ensembles using products and images that you find in their libraries, or ‘clip’ to Polyvore yourself.

It’s a great platform for showcasing my own jewelry along with everyone else’s, but more than that—it’s a lot of fun.

Here are three outfits I put together. I’d love to know which one’s your favourite, so feel free to comment 🙂

New York Girl

2. Metal:


3. Valentine Night:

My Valentine Night


Why I bought a life size, body form mannequin for photographing jewelry

After opening my jewelry store on Etsy I faced the dilemma all jewelry sellers face: How do I photograph my jewelry in such a way that it looks good while also demonstrating context, proportion, and fit?

I don’t have easy access to live models and I tend to shoot my photos at short notice, so I started off by photographing necklaces on my jewelry displays, like the one pictured below. But I found the displays very limiting and disproportionate to real life sizes. They were also no good for long necklaces.

Jewlery display
Frustrated with my vinyl ‘necks’, I invested in a bust that I thought would solve all my problems:

Jewelry display
I loved this bust’s funky texture (apparently I was almost the only one who did) and life size proportions. But it turned out to be bouncy, assymetrical, and it leaned backwards at a strange angle causing my necklaces to display very differently to how they look on a real person. And if I tilted it forward it fell on it’s face!

So, after hours of research, forum questions, price comparisons, and torturesome financial justifications—I decided to cough up for my full-size fashion mannequin, Maxine.

It was the best thing I ever did.

Maxine - my full sized, body form, fashion mannequin.

Maxine. How do I love her? Let me count the ways.

Overkill, you might say. Maybe, but if my house was on fire she’d be the first thing I’d grab after my dog.

As I already mentioned, once I’d committed to buying a realistic mannequin for photographing my jewelry, I did a huge amount of research to find the perfect mannequin at the best price. Maxine was $99 plus shipping—an extravagance for me, but worth ever penny.

I bought Maxine from eBiz Displays, but unfortunately the company seems no longer to have a website. Store Fixtures, USA has a great selection at reasonable prices.

So, is a full sized mannequin overkill for jewelry photography?

I say no, and here’s why:

  1. Maxine is a human-sized mannequin (also called a body form) so my customers can see the exact proportion of every necklace.
    This also means I can dress her in my clothes if I want to show a necklace in the context of an outfit, or create a ‘look’.
  2. I can pull the camera back for a long shot and show how a necklace looks from a distance, or show off very long necklaces effectively.
  3. She stands just like a person so necklaces hang realistically. Her only disadvantage is that she’s hard and people are soft, and that can make a little bit of a difference in how a necklace hangs.
  4. She’s completely symetrical, so I don’t waste time trying to make necklaces hang straight.
  5. She’s stable, and has some weight. Unlike my previous bust, Maxine does not wobble around, fall over, or sway in the breeze.
  6. She’s white. So my jewelry shows up well against her smooth, pale finish, no matter what colours the jewelry is. I could have gone for flesh tone, but a lot of my pendants are transparent and having white behind them shows their colour more accurately.
  7. She has a longer neck than most other headless mannequins so she models broad ribbon chokers really well.
  8. Because of her human proportions I can test necklaces on her while I’m making them to see if my idea is going to work, and adjust them in position—just like a wedding dress.
  9. She’s a huge time saver. I cannot overstate how time having a life-size, realistic jewelry mannequin has saved me during my photo sessions. Nor how much frustration I’ve been spared now that I no longer have to mess around trying to get my necklaces to look good.
Symmetrical body form for jewelry photography.

Maxine’s straight, symmetrical stance makes it easy to arrange necklaces perfectly.

A long shot shows proportions and context.

Long necklaces on mannequin

A full-size mannequin gives perspective to long necklaces.

This particular body form is height-adjustable up to 5’10, and comes with a bottle of touch-up paint, so she always looks brand new. When not being used Maxine stands in the corner displaying a new necklace. My friends love her…envy her actually, because of her hot bod, and she’s a constant reminder that I am serious about my jewelry business and my customers, and that I have a mission: to make this my day job.

Cheers, Caro
Browse my Shops:
Enter my jewelry give-aways: facebook.com/QuirkyOak

Sign up here for my up-coming jewelry give-aways and new designs! I promise not to spam you.


And the winners are…

This contest has ended.

Congratulations to the winners:

Your bracelet will be mailed shortly via USPS.

Win this plus sized-bracelet

You could win this one…

Win this plus sized-bracelet

…or you could win this one!

How to enter: It’s easy…just go to the contest Facebook Post on this page and SHARE the contest with your Facebook friends: https://www.facebook.com/QuirkyOak
Sorry about the inconvenience, but Facebook rules don’t allow contest instructions in posts.

No purchase necessary.
Anyone who shares the Facebook post is eligible to win.
People outside of the U.S.A may enter but Quirky Oak is not responsible for customs fees that may be applied by your country, or for prizes that get stolen or lost in the mail.
The contest ends at midnight EST on September 30th, 2012.
Winners will be announced on this blog on October 1st, 2012.
If you win, you will be required to email me your postal address. Your address will remain private and will only be used for the purpose of mailing your prize.
Prizes will be mailed via USPS.
The retail value of the bracelets is $45.00.
The draw will be performed by random.org.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
Facebook in not responsible for any aspect of this promotion.

Cheers, Caro
Browse my Shops:

Enter my jewelry give-aways: facebook.com/QuirkyOak

Sign up here for my up-coming jewelry give-aways and new designs! I promise not to spam you.



How to make a cheap photography backdrop for jewelry and fashion shoots

If you do your own product photography for your Etsy store and, like me, you’re not a photographer, then you’ve probably lived through some extremely annoying moments.

I’ve lost count of how much fabric I’ve trashed in despair after thinking it’d make a great photographic backdrop only to find it sucked.

Sucky photography backgrounds

Let me think…there was the browny-gold gauze, the grungy grey, the half-and-half. What was I thinking?

I eventually started developing backdrop envy. I was mildly jealous of people who had access to fabulous mossy stone walls, or grungy walls with textured, peely paint. What can I say? I live in Florida. Everything’s beige.

Here’s a description of what I wanted in a photography backdrop:

  • It must be portable. My house has bad light so I have to schlep my backdrop around outdoors.
  • It must be a neutral, versatile color. I don’t want to change backdrops to suit every piece of jewelry.
  • It must be a darkish color so my mannequin really pops.
  • It must be a warm color to bring out the warmer tones in my dark metals.
  • It must be compact. I have limited storage space and I need something I can slide under a bed or tuck behind a door.
  • It must be tough. I sometimes store it in the garage where it’s exposed to Florida’s heat and humidity.
  • It must be low maintenance. Fabric not paper. I want to make jewelry, not babysit fragile backgrounds.
  • It must have a soft drapey look. I want some background texture but not a distracting pattern.
  • It must be cheap. I’ve already wasted too much money on backdrops that didn’t work.

So, here’s what I came up with:

Photography backdrop idea

Draped photography background with mannequin

I chose chocolate brown for its warmth and richness, and I selected a ‘peachskin’ fabric because it has a soft velvety look and doesn’t crease very easily. If it gets a few creases in storage, I lay it on the carpet and iron it, but the creases normally occur in the middle and are obscured by the mannequin – so I ignore them.

I can achieve a soft or sharp background by adjusting the ‘background sharpness’ setting on my camera. If you don’t have that setting you can get a similar effect by moving the mannequin closer to the background for a sharp effect, or further away for a soft background.

Soft background

This image has a soft background.

Sharp background

This image has a sharper background.

Here’s what I purchased to create a photography backdrop that fulfilled my fairly demanding list of requirements:

  • Three yards of fabric (you could go for less – I wanted to have enough background for a full-body mannequin)
  • Two 1 x 6-inch planks, 8-feet long, already cut, from Lowe’s.
  • A bunch of drawing pins.
Portable photography background.

By moving the two planks closer together or futher apart, I can adjust the depth of the drapes. The image on the left is taken with the planks further apart, and a soft background setting on the camera. The one on the right has the planks close together and a sharp background setting on the camera.

After knocking out a light bulb or two as I carried my new backdrop through the house, I soon realized that 8 feet was way to long for my planks. So my neighbour Bill kindly cut them down to 6’6. Being a perfectionist, he shaped the tops into neat angles and sandpapered them to a smooth finish.

Planks for photographic background

The tops are neatly trimmed, and I use a blob of museum putty to anchor them in place when necessary.

To store the backdrop, I either lean it against a wall in the garage (where the humidity keeps the fabric crease-free), or I put the planks back-to-back and shove them under the bed.

Place the planks back to back and store them under a bed.

In this position I simply pile the fabric on top, still pinned to the planks. You can also wrap it round and round  one of the planks.

Pinning the fabric to the planks was easy. I lay them on the floor next to one another, about 4 feet apart, and pinned the fabric after visually estimating where I wanted my ‘folds’ to go. The folds are simply the fabric folded back on itself in a ‘Z’ shape.  Once you’ve done one side, do the other side. The folds don’t have to be in the exact same positions on both planks—in fact a slightly less symmetrical arrangement gives more natural looking results.

Z-shaped folds

Once you’re done pinning, lean the planks against a wall and position your mannequin (or whatever you’re shooting) in front of the backdrop. Check how the position of the folds looks through your camera and tweak them up or down if necessary. The pins come out of the wood pretty easily for repositioning.

You’re done. This photography backdrop is cheap and easy to make, and really durable. I’ve been dragging mine around the yard for 6 months now and it still looks as good as the day I made it.

Cheers, Caro
Browse my Shops:
Enter my jewelry give-aways: facebook.com/QuirkyOak

Sign up here for my up-coming jewelry give-aways and new designs! I promise not to spam you.