Business 101 – Annette Piper

20 12 2008

I am lucky to be in a situation where I sell my creations – this validates my reason for making substantial amounts of jewellery and enables me to continue to purchase vast quantities of gemstones!  


But a lot of people don’t sell what they make – sometimes this is because they choose not to, sometimes it is because they don’t know how.


Here are some of my pointers to selling your wares should you want to sell but not know where to start.


* Ensure you practice until your wares are as good as they can possibly be. Don’t even attempt to sell goods of questionable quality and workmanship as this may harm your reputation down the track.


* Create a ‘look’ that fits your style.   This look will be utilized in such things as business cards, packaging and advertising.   Think about your target market and what they react favourably to in advertising.   Research first to avoid costly mistakes – you don’t want to pay for business cards and then change your mind a month down the track and find they no longer suit you! 


* Price your items fairly. A good guide is to charge what YOU would be prepared to pay as a member of the general public.   Once again, do your research – you don’t want to be either too high or too low compared to your competitors in the marketplace.  Make sure you add all your costs together when pricing an item –  don’t guess in the early stages.  You will often be surprised how quickly small amounts add up.


* Seek out local shows and events in your area and see which attracts your target market.  Attend these shows as a visitor first if you can to gauge the clientele and the other booths/stalls.   If you think it is a good fit, then start to apply for them (some shows have extensive waiting lists).   A lot of quality shows will be juried, so be prepared with examples of your work.


* When you make it to a show, think about your set up.  Do a trial run at home of your display to make sure it works and looks attractive.  You may not have time to tweak your display at a show!    Make a list of things you will need and tick these off when packing.   Make sure you turn up to the show in good time to set up before the doors open.   Greet everyone with a smile.   Don’t pack up until the doors have shut or the last customer has departed – open booths will benefit from last minute sales.  Sit down a couple of days after the show and think about what went well and what could have been done better and make notes to refer to next time.


* Think about alternate ways of selling your wares – eg. home shows, trunk shows in local businesses, through art and craft outlets, on consignment, online through sites such as etsy or your own website.


* Network with other business owners, artisans and artists.


* Enjoy what you are doing!   If you lose your passion it may be time for a rethink.


Amethyst and sterling silver ring by Annette Piper

Amethyst and sterling silver ring by Annette Piper



To read more from Annette, visit her blog at and view her jewellery at


Art or Craft? – Annette Piper

19 10 2008

It’s a frequently asked question … “Is what I do art or is craft?”      


While what I do is attractive and takes skill and a lot of it is one of a kind, it isn’t rocket science either and given passion and practice someone else could probably do similar work.  


Therefore I am more likely to refer to myself as a designer and sometimes an artisan, rather than an artist.


I DO have some pieces in an art gallery and when I queried the appropriateness of my pieces in a gallery (yes, I know, keep quiet Annette!) the owner of the gallery told me that he could see my art in the way I put things together and even in my colour combinations.


On the other hand, I don’t believe my work is craft either – although I wouldn’t be upset to be referred to as a craftsman (woman!) as, to me,  that denotes a dedication to your ‘craft’ and a refinement of techniques.  


The perception of craft by the wider population tends to be someone who dabbles in making something that is not that difficult, although I am sure some ‘crafts’ are far, far harder than we imagine!


What IS important is that we follow our passions and that need to create – whether we call it art … or craft.


Amethyst and silver cocktail ring

Amethyst and silver cocktail ring


To read more about my creations and get to know me better, pop into my blog at  and see my jewellery at


Getting Motivated by Suzanne of Solar Flare Creations

13 08 2008

Motivation is a slippery creature – sometimes hard to catch and often even harder to hang onto.  I am often thankful that I do not need torely on my glasswork for a living, as I think that having to torch, rather than wanting to, would make motivation a very rare creature indeed.

I am motivated to melt glass by the joy it brings me, the fascination with the flame and the way molten glass moves and by the objects of beauty that are produced at the end of the process.  I’m motivated by the feel of glass beads in my hand, and by the appreciation of those who admire my beads.  I am motivated by a need to master new techniques and a fascination with a craft that has existed for over 3000 years.

Molten glass inspires wonder… and a sense of wonder is a powerful motivator.

Space Poppies on Etsy Now

Space Poppies on Etsy Now

Balancing Career With Life – Starfish Designs

2 05 2008

For the last seven months I have been, in the traditional sense, career-less; last September after living in urban America for 11 years my family and I made a life change, packed our bags and headed for the sun. For assorted reasons I knew that I wouldn’t be working again for a while, and while attempting to enjoy my new found career-less freedom, and not knowing what it would lead to, I purchased my first sewing machine. I started out making a few things for our new home, and some gifts for family and friends mainly small pouches and coin purses, using a technique that I call Modern Patchwork. In early March, on an impulse, I signed up for my first craft show. The show was a complete success, and Starfish Designs became a concrete reality.

Coral Sunset Zippered Pouch

In two weeks from now the balancing act will become more complicated; as it stands now I am juggling my home and family, craft business, and an attempt at self-sufficiency gardening, soon added to the pot will be a return to my former career as an Architect. I would love for my craft business to be my only business, but for now, well…you know. Now I am starting to wonder how I will do it all: checklists, calendars, schedules, time frames, and self imposed deadlines all seem like a tremendous amount of pressure and after all those were the very stresses of the life that we consciously left behind. So instead I have decided to set a series of suggested, small, manageable, evolving, and no pressure, goals for Starfish Designs:

Production Creation:

There is something very rewarding about creating one piece at a time start to finish, for one no two bags are alike, and the excitement of seeing each one completed keeps me interested in what I am doing as well. Unfortunately the “one at time” strategy, albeit the most creative, doesn’t really fit with my no pressure business goals. Selecting and combining fabrics is one aspect of my design process that I have elected not to push into production mode. Therefore in the interest of creativity I am committed to hand selecting and coordinating my fabrics, no two will be alike, and in the interest of production…well, I will have to be very, very, very disciplined and resort to good old efficient assembly line production: cutting, pinning, zippers, stitch, press…repeat.


The internet is a sea of networking and marketing opportunities for design businesses of all types and sizes, most anyone you encounter in the online world of handmade will, of course nicely, head you in endless directions all leading to the most effective channels for promoting your craft. As I am floating about on an island in the Caribbean, dedicating a measure of my time to marketing is particularly important. I must admit that I have created an informal no pressure checklist outlining my concentrated marketing efforts for the week, most of which I hope to achieve, very early, every Sunday morning. What all of this means is that is that if on Wednesday a fellow designer tells me about a fantastic marketing opportunity or two it will have to wait until Sunday and until there is room for it to become part of my no pressure checklist. Again this will require discipline…

Time MisManagement:

Now that 8 hours of my day will be dedicated to being what I was originally intended to be, some attention will have to be given to finding a few extra hours here and there to conduct the business of Starfish Designs, here’s my list so far:

  • 2 hours per day commuting to work (with my husband driving) = 10 Hours/week. This time could easily be used for combining and coordinating fabrics, sketching, pinning, and preparing orders. Due to the way that my husband drives I have ruled out both cutting and pressing ;)!
  • 1 hour per day eating lunch which takes 1/2 an hour to eat, so 1/2 an hour per day = 2.5 Hours/week This time will be dedicated to responding to emails, processing orders, editing product photos and other computer based work on my laptop.
  • 1 hour per day waking up earlier = 5 Hours/week. This time will be dedicated toward sourcing my materials and supplies on the internet. Nearly 75% of my materials and supplies come from wonderful Ebay sellers; a few weeks ago I spent a bit of time developing a spreadsheet for use in conjunction with Ebay. The spreadsheet is complete with formulas that determine my maximum bid based on the required profit margin for a particular design. This really saves me time and money, and puts an end to countless hours of unfocused surfing on Ebay.

Zippered PouchesSo that works out to be (approximately) 17.5 hours per week, that plus my 2 hours of scheduled actual Production Creation time per day which is limited, for now, to Monday through Friday totals 27.5 hours per week. Well there you have it, a by no means no complete, no pressure approach to balancing all of the above. I must say that after putting all of this down on paper I know that I can only allow my self a bit of latitude for those times when I lose my balance.


Recharging – Suzanne of Solar Flare Creations

11 04 2008

This month I am asked to talk about ‘Recharging’ – how do I refresh my creativity and recharge my batteries?  As a hobbyist, I guess burn out is less of a problem for me to begin with.  One of the things I always consider in relation to my bead business is ensuring it stays fun, that it does not become too much like hard work.  I often go a few weeks without torching, as I get too busy, and life gets in the way, so I am generally chomping at the bit to torch.  I did have a bit a creative lull earlier this year.  That seems to relate more to my morale about the online auction sites being so very slow at the moment, than it is about how I actually feel about torching.  Often, when that happens to me, coincidentally it seem sot be a time where I need to focus on my historical beads for awhile, so I don’t have to stress about my lack of creative flow too much. After a few weeks of making fairly simple medieval beads for an SCA event or focusing on research, I am generally happy to ‘play’ with more contemporary designs.  A change is as good as a holiday, so they say. 


So, for me, I try not to make to many demands on my beadmaking – that’s why I don’t do wholesale orders for shops, as I don’t want to ‘have to’ make a certain number of beads a week.  As long as my glass is self funding, I am generally happy, although I am trying to fund a trip back to the states next year. 


Keep it fun – it would be a terrible thing to me, to let my joy in glass be damaged by burning out, or too many demands re sales etc.

Fame, Fortune and Reality – Susan Sheehan

17 02 2008

When it comes to our art or craft, most of us would like to eventually become famous.  Perhaps not recognized on the street, but certainly recognized in our medium.  In addition to feeling good about what we do, it is bound to increase our financial intake. But how does one become widely recognized and honored?  Or simply put, how do we get our name out there? 

Let me preface my advice by saying I am not famous….. Yet. But if I keep following my own advice, you’ll see my name elsewhere. Here are a few ideas to put you on the path to great fame: 

Get published – Write a how to article on a technique that has your unique twist.  Take great photos, write a clear concise set of instructions and see your name on the cover of a magazine at your favorite craft store.  You can also stalk the call for submissions at Lark Books.  Are you full of great advice?  Write a book. 

Teach – Teaching is a great way to get you known.  Each class is a slew of new faces that get to know you and what you do.  They tell their friends and have a memory of who you are for the rest of their lives.  Think of how many you could touch in the course of a year. 

Network – I know this one is widely used, but think about how you network.  Share your work with everyone.  Wear it, give it, or talk about it.  Join art organizations and participate.  Become a name seen among the members.  Become someone others in your medium can put a face or picture of your work to. 

Make a splash on the internet – If you are reading this article I know you utilize the internet.  But instead of just reading, participate.  Have a website and blog.  Join forums and post.  Join social networks and share pictures of what you do.   

Before you know it, people will start to know who you are.  You will get anonymous emails asking for your advice.  You may even get autograph requests.  Really!  It can happen to all of us. Any other ideas you would like to share I would love to hear.


Shows – Lori Anderson

30 01 2008

Shows are my bread and butter – the majority of my sales are made at shows, and in this article, I hope to share some of the ways I make them successful for me.

First, of course if finding the right show.

If at all possible, visit a show that you’re interested in and take a look before making a decision. You can learn a lot this way – are there a lot of customers? What genre seems to be predominant?

If you can’t visit a show beforehand, do some research. My favorite tool is Sunshine Artist Magazine ( What makes it a wonderful publication is the tons of show reviews that are written by the vendors, not the promoters. You get the skinny on how hard it is to set up, what last year was like, how busy it was, and what selected vendors made over the course of the show.

Be careful about putting too much weight on what any one vendor tells you. Someone may say, “OH this would be a GREAT show for you!”, but you don’t know what that person’s definition of “great” is. A good show for them might be $300, while a good show for you might be $3000. So take all suggestions with a grain of salt.

Decide if you would prefer a juried or non-juried show. Non-juried shows are usually inexpensive and they pretty much take anyone who applies. Juried shows require you turn in slides or digital photos of your work (about 4-5 pieces) as well as a slide of your booth, and the competition is high, particularly in certain categories like jewelry. These shows are normally more expensive, but can also net a lot of money.

Applying to shows is a lot of work.

I’ve always equated it with applying to college – fill in the application way in advance, pay your application fee, then wait and wait. Most juried shows have applications out in the fall and winter for the coming year’s shows. Here are some things to keep in mind:Pay a professional to photograph your work. You have literally seconds for the jury to see your work, and you want it to look its best. Additionally, the difference between professional slides and do-it-yourself slides (no matter how good) is easily seen to juries that see thousands of slides each year.

Keep a calendar that is JUST for your shows. I print out mine off the computer, pencil in shows that I’ve applied to, mark them out if I don’t get in and highlight them if I do. That way, you don’t accidentally apply to two shows on the same weekend, and you can pace yourself and not overextend yourself (or your inventory).

Be prepared to get rejection letters. I do about 15 shows a year, 95% juried, and I get my fair share of rejection letters. As I make jewelry, I’m already at a disadvantage – promoters get far more applications for jewelry than they do anything else. People who have done the show in the past usually get preference, so there may be only one new slot a year for your category!

Your booth is important!

When jurors look at slides and find two people whose work they love, the booth slide is often the tie breaker. You want your work to be presented in the best possible way. For jewelry or similar items, get your tables UP – I use bed risers to get them closer to eye level. I’ve collected pretty boxes from Marshalls or TJMaxx that I set busts on, to give height and levels. I tried to make my booth reflect a cute boutique – you may choose to make yours ultra-modern, with all black, white and silver, or go for a whimsical approach, and have all kinds of colors and cute stuff.For outdoor shows, you’ll need a tent. If you are just getting started and are not sure this is what you really want to do, an inexpensive EZUP will work. As the name says, it’s easy to put up, but it won’t stand up to abuse and if you are going to do tons of shows in various environments, you will probably want to invest in something else. I have a Light Dome (, which is expensive, but I love it because it’s quite sturdy, and I can use the frame for my indoor shows as well.

At the show:

Smile, have fun, and enjoy yourself, no matter what happens. There’s nothing that turns a prospective customer off quite like a vendor that is grumpy and busy talking to anyone who will listen about how slow the day is/how little money they’re making/how the booth two over is selling cheap stuff and killing your margin. If I encounter someone like that, I just walk away. Who needs the negative vibes?

Never ever ever read a book or newspaper at a show. Never. I can’t tell you how many vendors I’ve walked right by because they had their nose in a novel and I didn’t want to bother them. On the other hand, I do encourage you to work on a related project whenever feasible. I take chain maille or another time-intensive project with me to every show. Some shows, I’m too busy to even touch it, but when I do work on it, people like to stop and look, and it shows them that yes, you DID make all that stuff!

Whenever you make a sale, ask if they would like to receive your email or snail mail newsletter. A lot of people don’t like sharing emails anymore due to the huge increase in spam, but don’t mind giving a home address. This will allow you to market to them, promoting web sales or other shows in their area. I get a lot of repeat business this way.

Doing shows takes a lot of work, a lot of energy, and a lot of practice. I’m fortunate that my husband sets up my tent for me and is Chief Schlepper, but we also have learned to set up in rain/wind/with a three year old screaming. You just never know WHAT will happen! Here’s a couple of hints to keep you sane:

Keep a packing check list so you won’t forget things.

Keep a tool kit JUST for your shows.

Carry water. And aspirin. Oh yeah. And band aids.

Keep your sense of humor.

Before leaving town, go online and find out where the closest Walmart/Lowes/Home Depot is, for emergencies.

So there you go – a bare scraping-of-the-surface about shows. If you have more questions or need help, please feel free to email me at and I’ll gladly assist!