As I’ve mentioned before, I got into the jewelry design business completely and totally by accident. I didn’t take a class, just jumped in with both feet and started messing around and figuring things out for myself.
Almost immediately, I took my hobby into a business. Looking back, there are so many things I wish I’d known:
1) Beads will take over your life.
Do not fight this. So from the start, get a huge storage system in place. It will be full sooner than you know. The quicker you allocate studio space, the quicker you’ll be able to find things when you need them — and know what you have so you don’t keep buying the same supply over and over again!
2) Take some classes early on.
I don’t know how long it was before I learned how to make a perfect wrapped loop, but at first, I had no idea how. And it showed.
3) Explore different mediums.
Right now, I’m a stringing/wire work jewelry designer. I know traditional metalsmithing and lampwork bead making, but I’ve gotten so involved with keeping inventory up for the shows I do that I don’t have much time to look into other things, or hone new skills. If I’d started exploring new mediums sooner, who knows what I’d be making now … altered art? Woven wire? PMC?. It also would have helped me figure out what direction I wanted to go with my jewelry — what did I want my primary market to be? I didn’t allow myself enough experimentation time before starting to sell.
4) If you’re going to sell your work, use the best beads you can afford.
I should have been pickier when I first started selling my work. I cringe now at what I was using. This doesn’t mean you have to start with AAA London Blue Topaz, but if you’re going to be serious about selling, be serious about your beads.
5) Get a handle on your pricing structure right away.
I quickly learned that my retail prices weren’t going to support a wholesale business. I also learned that because I started with such cheap beads, it was a little difficult for my customers to get used to prices once I discovered beauties like handmade glass. (Another good reason to make sure you’re happy with your craft before you start selling it!) Additionally, decide right away if you’re going after the wholesale or retail market. Each one has its own peculiarities, and it’s often a good idea to choose one or the other.
I feel pretty lucky that five years later, things have turned out as well as they have. But it sure would have made a difference if I knew then what I know now.