If I Had Only Known

20 02 2009

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.

dream-2a13)  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 after-the-storm-2business.  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.


Lori Anderson sells her jewelry at craft shows  and on www.lorianderson.net, taking time to write on her blog, www.prettythingsblog.com.  She creates in her studio in Easton, MD.


Artistic Block – Annette Piper

17 02 2009

Artistic block – have you ever had it? That awful feeling when you look at your bench or at your drawing board or at a blank canvas or at your sewing basket and go completely and utterly blank? When, if you force yourself, it just turns out wrong?

I was starting to get like that at the end of last year – I was tired out from shows almost every week, from filling orders, from creating when the well was almost dry. Sitting at my bench had become a habit, but one I really wasn’t enjoying. I knew I needed a break.

I have younger children and Christmas is a family time, as well as our summer holidays. So I just stopped. I switched off and tried not to think about work – tried not to think of shows I should/ could do, what I may need in stock, what supplies I had stockpiled, what new supplies I may need… Of course I didn’t always succeed, but by the middle of January (about a month into my ‘holiday’) I was a bit shocked when clients started popping in to look at jewellery or to get something made!

I thought about getting back to work when the children returned to school from their summer vacation at the end of January. After all, I had to prepare the winter collection. But it was so hot, I was still so tired and although I sat at my bench and moved some stones around – well, it just didn’t happen. I got up and left it.

I admit I became somewhat discouraged and the thought that ‘maybe I’ve lost my creativity’ did fleetingly go through my mind. But I decided to put that negative thought away and let it happen when I was ready.

Sure enough a creative burst was just around the corner … well a couple of weeks away, but not long in the course of a year!

I sat down and made a bracelet. Yes, I liked that. But nothing more came for a few days. This was obviously just a creative ‘warm up’.

Next, I did a necklace – it was rather challenging and took me a whole day to get just ‘right’. Then I finished off a necklace that had been sitting there for months – just needing an extra pair of hands to help me finish it off.

A week passed, then I decided to start pulling apart all those pieces that for some reason I had set aside – they either weren’t right or I had grown bored with them before I’d even finished with them. There were quite a lot from the last few years. (Yes, I also procrastinate!)

I deconstructed the first piece, I added some extra bits, I took others away, I fiddled and fussed and before I knew it, I was deeply engrossed in CREATING.

Yay, it’s back! I’m now in full creative mode and loving my work again!

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

To read more from Annette, visit her blog at http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at http://www.annettepiper.com

Business 101-Chase Designs

28 01 2009

My business is making lampwork beads and marbles.  I have read a few of my colleagues are creating their yearly business plan and that just makes my head spin.  How could I possibly know what I want to accomplish in the next year?  Other than sell enough beads and marbles to pay my bills and save a little cash.  Though these days I think many artisans are just pleased to stay in business.

So, while I don’t write a business plan…ever, I do have goals.  I have a certain amount of product I want to make each day to list on various outlets.  Currently I list on Ebay, Etsy, Artfire, and my own website.  I plan for two new items on ebay, two new items on etsy, one on artfire and one on my website.  That is five new items in the form of a set, marble, pair, daily special, whatever.  Plus I list two of my husbands marbles every day.  Well, six days  a week.  I do not list anything new on Saturdays.

I admit, I almost never make my daily goal of new product.  That takes  a back seat to special orders, which I do get quite often and regularly.  It is still my goal though and when I reach it I get euphoric, then I panic.  It’s kind of sad in a way because I know if I met my goal I am caught up.  Then I am left wondering when the next order is coming in.  I know, I can be a mental case.

So my business plan is to always have new product to offer and of course provide excellent customer service.  Timely emails and fast shipping.  I cannot express to you enough how much these two things matter to our customer base.  Yes, the product should be well made and hopefully desirable, but in this world of do it yourself service, the customer certainly notices when you go the extra distance.

Curve Balls

21 01 2009

ballNo matter how well-planned a business is, there’s always that unexpected curve ball that comes at you and whacks you when you least expect it.  In the back of my mind for the past four years, I’ve known that a curve ball could be lurking, waiting to be thrown, and since I’m a lousy catcher, that ball was going to hit me smack upside my head.

The ball seems to have hit me now in the form of Exhaustion and Illness.  Right now I’m fighting both, and it’s not a lot of fun.

Part of me (the very, very tired part) wants to just throw up my hands and say, “take the year off”.  But I had some incredible momentum in 2008, and I don’t want to lose it, so I’m going to have to adapt to this curve ball.

In a nutshell:

1)  I’m cutting back on my craft shows.  I did something like 20 last year, and most of those were 3-days long.  That’s where the exhaustion comes from.  This year, I’m planning on only about 10 shows, and being much more judicious about when they are, so I don’t book myself for two months solid.

2)  I’m allowing myself to rest.  That may sound elementary, a no-brainer when you’re tired or ill, but my personality type thrives on work.  I dare say most artists are the same way, but sometimes, something has to give.  Do whatever it takes to give your body and your mind a chance to repair and recharge.  If you have to write on your calendar, “do nothing today”, well, make that appointment.

3)  When I DO have the energy, I’m using it wisely.  I make a list each morning, and focus just on that list before I allow myself to deviate.  That’s tough for me, because I am the ultimate multi-tasker, but it’s become way too easy to do tons of work and get nothing done.  (Know the feeling?)

None of these things is easy for me, but that curve ball, it hurt.  No one expects to get sick or tired or have something happen within their family that makes you have to stop and totally re-plan.  It’s good to have a fall-back plan, other options, other ways to get things done.  So before a curve ball hits you, take some time to think about “what if” — and don’t feel horrible if you drop the ball.

Lori Anderson is currently taking it easy in her studio in Easton, MD.  Her work can be seen at www.lorianderson.net, and her random musings can be read at www.lorianderson.blogspot.com.


(Photo via thecompletepitcher.com)

The One Thing I Know for Sure – Annette Piper

17 01 2009

Hmmm, I might prefer to say, One Thing I Think I Know! 


And that is that qualty wil always sell.  It may not sell fast, but it will sell. 


I did a small show last year and was warned that the customer base of this show

* may not buy jewellery:

* were possibly into the metaphysical aspect of gemstones; and

* per sale $ would not be high.


Like anyone, occasionally I falter –  by trying to change myself to fit what I THINK the customer base would like – without actually having tried the show first or been told that that is actually what they are after. 


So I concentrated on my impulse level items and spent quite a bit of time, finding some great focal gemstones, making some samples, researching the metaphysical side of stones and listing them, and getting all these new things together in time for the show.   I didn’t have a lot of space and dedicated more than half of it to these pieces.


Now most of my jewellery is higher end gemstone and pearls so this was quite a departure from my usual line.  The remainder of my space – which was not very much at all – had a few pieces of my usual jewellery – more as an indication of the type of work I did.

Well, I had a lovely time.  I met some very nice people and sold one, yes, that’s right, ONE impulse-level item.   The majority of people thought I was just showing stones and they enjoyed looking through them, asking me questions and then wandered away. 


However out of the few pieces of my usual jewellery – HALF sold.    


I have finally learned that I should stick to what I know and what I’m good at – and that is higher end jewellery!  


I have followed my own advice since then – and at even the most unlikely places, I have sold at least something.  People really CAN appreciate the quality, even in the dire financial times we find ourselves – and some will still buy something they can see is quality and value for their money. 


(Yes, I still carry my impulse price items but they are definitely relegated as only a sideline rather than given pride of place!)


A beautiful three strand garnet bracelet by Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

A beautiful three strand garnet bracelet by Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery

To read more from Annette, visit her blog at http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com

Inspiration – Heather Hertziger

12 01 2009

Inspiration is one of those very personal things.  What one person finds inspiring may not do anything for someone else.  Some people may find that their art is inspired by majestic views or paintings by masters.  Others find that they need other sources for inspiration.  

I belong to the second group.  I look at a painting, a sunset on a pond, or a beautiful mountain and I appreciate them for themselves, but rarely do I feel inspired by something like this.  My inspiration comes from learning new things and finding ways to incorporate those techniques into things I already do.  Lately, I have been feeling uninspired to work on my torch so I decided to work on something completely different for me and so I found some directions to make this necklace.


I don’t typically make pieces like this so it was a real stretch for me.  However, now that it is made, I am inspired to see what it would look like with some of my lampwork incorporated into the design.  I will be hitting the torch soon and creating a new piece with my lampwork added to the design.  Stay tuned to see what I come up with.


Chasing Trends – Andrea Quenneville

31 12 2008

“Trendy” is a word that would never be used to describe my personal style or anything in my home. I’m not one to follow the latest styles or to concern myself with fashion. I’m sure my teenager thinks I’m completely lame! In my business, however, I often find myself wondering what is “cool” or trying to figure out what the hot colors are going to be for the coming seasons; not because I want to only offer trendy items, but because I want to tap into a different way of generating traffic in my shop. One of my goals has always been to offer a wide range of fabric choices to broaden the appeal of my products.

Too often, I’ve found myself on the tail-end of trends, or falling in love with fabric that was popular six months ago. I can’t tell you how many different owl fabrics I have that are languishing on my shelves, waiting for me to make them into totes. It’s pointless to sew them now, as owls seem to be waning in popularity. (It’s a good thing I love owls!)

I am currently packing my studio for a cross-country move, so my business will be closed for most of this winter. I honestly have been too busy with daily life to plan for this spring, so I hope to focus on creating a summer line that has some trendy elements once we’re settled. As always, I have grand plans for new bags that might never materialize. Or, maybe I’ll turn into a fashionista before the snow melts…stranger things have happened!

Happy New Year Everyone! Please visit my blog at http://thoughtsfrommsq.blogspot.com