Tag Archives: jewelry

OPEN STUDIO

People have been asking for pictures of my last Open Studio, so I published an album today. You can see it here

The next sunny day we have in Keene, NH, I’ll take more pics and add another album.

My next Open Studio is Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 & 7, 2011, as part of the statewide NH Open Doors event. Hope you can come, and til then….

Enjoy!

Little clown bank.

Dolls

Vintage button jewelry.

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RUNNING WITH DOGS

Last week I made my first little dog artifacts.

My very first little dog artifact, in faux green soapstone.

Today I have pics of my very first dog pack. I love them so much already! I stayed with a very ancient-looking prototype, with long snout, upright and slightly cocked ears, and a curly tail. The curling tail seems to be the discerning characteristic of a dog versus a wolf or coyote. I could be wrong, but I’m going with it for now.

A whole pack of ancient dogs!

Running with the dogs. For Joanne!

I also have two little otters who are different from their brethren. Their backs arch up. I think they look like they’re doing that thing kittens do, when they arch their backs and hop sideways. And look–see the tiny toes on this one’s feet??

Bouncy otters!

Otter toes!

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TWO BEAUTIFUL OBJECTS IN SPACE

Just a quick note, artist Nicole Caulfield is doing a portrait of my daughter Robin wearing my “Gaia” shaman necklace. She just sent me the first draft and it is beautiful!

Can’t take my eyes off Robin or the necklace. I’m doubly blessed, not only to have such a great kid, but that she looks so good in my jewelry! (Doug is cool, too, but he won’t wear these necklaces….!!!)

Nicole Caulfield's portrait of my daughter Robin wearing my Gaia necklace.

Second portrait is the one I had done at a mall photo studio a few years ago. I still love this photo and use it as a large poster in my booth. It shows my daughter Robin wearing my necklace, “Ceremonial”, made with my horse, shell and bone artifacts. Charms made with antique trade beads, electronic resistors and vintage buttons, and tons of semi-precious stones such as turquoise, amazonite, jade, etc. The look is tribal and nomadic and fits my artwork beautifully.

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TRUNK SHOW

I’d never done a trunk show before. You know me–that was all the excuse I needed to over-think and over-prepare!

But I think it was a successful event. You can see the photos of my set-up here.

Here are some of the things I considered as I pulled my display together:

1) A trunk show means you bring EVERYTHING.

But it can’t look like everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink, either. I still wanted a cohesive display. So I set out several “series” of jewelry and grouped them accordingly. I had plenty more samples in reserve.

2) It should look different than a craft show booth.

My artist-of-the-month display looks a lot like my fine craft booth. It’s a formal display, an in-depth look at my work in a museum-like setting.

But I wanted my trunk show to look like just that–like I’d traveled to the show, bringing a personal collection of items for my customers’ enjoyment. I even asked for a few chairs, so that people could sit and talk as I worked.

3) It should still be obvious what you’re selling.

One of the drawbacks of a totally creative display is, sometimes you can’t tell what people are selling. How many times have you walked by a booth at a show filled with wonderful props and eclectic display–only to wonder what the heck they’re selling??!! (Hint: If people keep trying to buy your display pieces, those display pieces are TOO interesting!)

I got around this by sticking to the vintage suitcases as my only “prop”. The rest of the display featured traditional black steel jewelry display pieces–earring holders, necklace holders, etc.

I also confined my larger, bolder, more elaborate pieces to the suitcase display. The smaller, simpler pieces went on the traditional display fixtures, where they were able to be seen more easily.

People did ask about the suitcases, but they also stuck around longer to enjoy the entire show. Because the pieces were simply “laid out”–not elaborately draped and swagged–the message was still clear: “It’s okay to touch!”

4) Give people a reason to hang out.

At a craft show, there may be thousands of people coming with the intent to see as much as they can. If they like my work and my booth, they enter. Then they are in “my world”.

It can be harder when you’re simply a display in a store. Right next to your table are examples of a dozen other artists’ work!

I decided to do make up some simple necklaces featuring my artifacts and torch work with sterling silver wire. This gave even casual observers an excuse to hang out, watch and ask questions.

5) It’s only your time. Have fun!

To quote Greg Brown, “Time ain’t money when all ya got is time.” (From “Just a Bum”

Yes, my time is valuable, but it wasn’t like I was paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be there at the gallery that day. It was a nice, relaxed opportunity to introduce new people to my work.

So by keeping my expectations low, my presentation skills high, by keeping myself busy even during slow times (but totally available during busy times) I ended up having a great time, acceptable sales and met some amazing new collectors of my work!

Trunk display for my trunk show!

Trunk display for my trunk show!

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TRUNK SHOW IN PETERBOROUGH, NH TODAY!

I’ll be at the Sharon Arts Center in downtown Peterborough today, for my very first trunk show.

All my stuff is packed in….suitcases! I don’t have any real trunks, but I have a wonderful collection of small vintage suitcases. I don’t know why I like them so much. Maybe I want to be able to leave in a hurry.

I think I’m done packing and I think I’ll be there around 11 to set up. For Mother’s Day, I’ll be demonstrating simple wire-working techniques–balling up sterling silver wire to make head pins, wrapping pearls and semi-precious stones, etc. to make simple necklaces for Mom (and nicely priced at under $25 too!)

I’ll also have samples of my artifacts and tons of my animal jewelry. Artfully arranged in….trunks! Er…small suitcases. And examples of books and magazines my work has appeared in.

No, I am not bringing Bunster. Something tells me she would wreak havoc in Peterborough…..

Artist-of-the-Month at SAC

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BUBBLES

I got a lot done in the studio today. I promised two of my galleries I’d restock them after the holiday rush on my work. (Whoo hoo!)

I’m working on a popular new series of jewelry using more organic, simple beads of polymer, accented with freshwater pearls, found objects, wrapped stones, oxidized sterling silver and soft ribbons of leather I cut from recycled leather clothing. It seems to appeal to people who like my aesthetic, but want something more “neutral” than powerful animal totemic work.

I’ve been “in the zone” most of the day, moving easily from one production task to another–drilling pearls, making more polymer pod beads and spacers, cutting leather strips, oxidizing findings, making head pins.

This evening I was dashing around finishing up some stuff so I could relax “later”. The last errand took me across town and back.

On the way back, I thought maybe I could practice being “in the moment”.

So instead of wishing I could hit all the green lights, or cursing the idiot who pulled out in front of me at the rotary, I tried to slow my breathing down. Breath…… In. Pause. Out.

I relaxed and paid attention to what was going on right now.

“I’m driving the car,” I thought. It felt like flying.

My knee ached a little. “My knee hurts,” I thought. But that was a good thing. It meant I’d gone for a long, vigorous walk with our dog Tuck. I remembered playing “monster chasing dog” and “kick the pine cone” and “grab the stick and pull” games.

“I’m driving with my dog in the back seat,” I thought. Tuck chose that moment to stick his head from his seat in the back to rest it gently next to mine in the driver’s seat. Sweet.

“I’m cold,” I thought. The car was still a little chilly, but it was just enough for me to sense it, a good feeling.

“I’m on my way home to my family.” That felt good, too.

“This is a pretty town,” I thought. Keene does have a really nice downtown. This is where our kids grew up. No matter where we end up, it will always hold a special place in our heart.

“It’s a beautiful evening,” I thought.

And then I thought, “I’m driving through a cloud of soap bubbles. And I was.

Someone in an apartment above must have opened a window and blown soap bubbles to drift down to the street below.

It was wonderful. Quite a lovely moment.

Then I saw a very flat, very dead squirrel, and the moment was done.

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CUSTOMER CARE: Repair the Goods, Repair the Relationship

What you do for customer care AFTER the sale is important, too!

A question came up in an online forum the other day. People shared their business policy for repairs.

Nobody likes to hear their work didn’t hold up. My heart always sinks when I get a request from a store or customer to repair a piece. I feel slightly guilty. I take pride in my work and always stress the fact that my work is well-made. In fact, my original studio name was Durable Goods. A broken piece feels like I’ve misled the customer.

It doesn’t help that sometimes the customer is already upset and defensive. “It just broke!” is what I usually hear. Who wants to hear that about our product?? Not me.

It helps to take a deep breath and listen with your heart.

I’ve come to realize a few things about the repair process. First, even expensive, commercially-made jewelry isn’t necessarily impervious to harm. A fine gold chain breaks when a jumping dog snags it, diamonds fall out of their settings and rings drop down the garbage disposal. My jewelry is as well-made as I can make it, but things do wear out, get lost, break down. I don’t need to get defensive if one of my pieces gets broken.

I’ve also come to realize that customers often start out on the offensive because they expect to be given a hard time.

Isn’t that awful?? They love my work, they paid their hard-earned money for it, they wore it every day, it broke, they want to get it fixed so they can wear it some more.

And they think I’m going to be snotty about it. Because that’s what they’ve come to expect from other small businesses and vendors when they have issues with a purchase.

The solution is to immediately reassure them that they will be taken care of. And to offer exquisite customer care.

My first response is, “I’m so sorry that happened! Tell me what’s wrong. Let me make it right for you so you can wear it again.”

As soon as they realize I will listen, and sympathize, and then resolve the issue, they calm down. They are relieved and grateful they will be taken care of.

As they describe or show the damage (depending on whether they’ve called or come to my booth at a show), I assess what has to be done. I offer options–repair, replace, restring, etc.

After I’ve assured them the piece can be repaired, then it’s time to gently find out how the damage occurred.

This will give valuable information about whether the damage is their “fault” or mine. This is not to assess blame. It’s to determine whether I need to make changes in my process, or if this is a “teachable moment” for the customer.

Here’s how I think about it:

If I had TONS of repairs, then it might be MY problem.

A lot of repairs indicates I have to review my product and perhaps make adjustments. Maybe I need to look at my construction techniques and ask myself why I was getting so many returns. Is the stringing material durable enough? Was the glue old? (Even epoxies have a shelf life.) When I was just starting out selling jewelry, I thought I could save money by using cheap spring clasps for my necklaces. The clasps didn’t hold up. That, unfortunately, resulted in a lot of returns for repairs. That was a valuable lesson. I now only work with high-quality components.

If I DON’T have a lot of repairs, then providing free (or at least cheerful) repairs is the best customer service I can give.

Either the customer loved the item enough to wear it often and is disappointed she can’t anymore or she paid a lot for item and didn’t get the usage out of it she expected.

Either way, she has paid me a very high compliment–loving my work, and investing in my work.

Either way, a repair will make her very, very happy, and willing to buy from me again.

A refusal will upset her and you can bet she will let everybody know about it.

So what do I mean by a “teachable moment”?

If I’ve put the customer at ease by reassuring her I will take care of her, and it turns out the damage is not my fault, then there’s an opportunity to educate, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

A customer indignantly said the artifact on her necklace “just broke.” I immediately told her I was sorry. I asked her to send it to me immediately, and I would either repair or replace it. I apologized for the inconvenience, and she grew calmer. We talked more. She told me she desperately hoped I could fix it, because she loved the artifact (a horse.) Under gentle questioning, she admitted that when she was nervous, she liked to “flex” a flat artifact pendant I’d made. That “flexing” eventually caused the artifact to break.

Her initial defensive attitude was because she thought I would not help her if she admitted she’d broken it, and she was distraught because she loved it so much.

I made her a new, thicker pendant, jokingly telling her “no more flexing!” Because she loved the original artifact so much, I glued it back together, put a backing layer of polymer on it to strengthen it, and made it into a pin.

When I’m feeling defensive, this is important to keep in mind: An item that breaks with overuse means the item was being worn, and worn a lot. One woman told me she never took off the silk cord necklace she’d bought from me. She even wore it swimming, and showered in it.

It took some doing to convince her that silk cord won’t hold up under that kind of usage. But that was just proof of how much she loved it. And I still restrung her necklace. Free.

Last, when you have wholesale customers and get a customer repair request, remember you are actually dealing with two customers–their customer, and the store owner/buyer/manager. When you show your willingness to stand behind your work, you make it easier for the store to do their work–selling your stuff.

Just my humble opinion, and experience. And of course, there are exceptions.

We’ve all had the occasional customer who simply can’t be satisfied. It happens rarely in face-to-face encounters. It’s more common with online sales if you don’t already have a relationship with the customer. When you feel you’ve gone above and beyond, and the customer is still not happy, it may be worth your while to simply take the item back and refund their money.

And if your materials are very expensive, then of course you may have to charge a reasonable fee for repairs regardless of why they are needed.

But even if you must charge for repairs, these are still ways you can make your customer feel treasured. Listening and taking care of your customers after the sale–offering support and non-judgmental service–is excellent customer service indeed.

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HOW MUCH IS THAT HORSIE/BIRDIE/FISHIE IN THE WINDOW?

Thinking inside and outside the box for a special window display.

It’s that time of year again, Keene’s annual Art Walk. Downtown store owners offer their window space for artists to display their work, for nine days. Area schools bus their students downtown to see the art and meet the artists.

I have a special place in my heart for Art Walk. It was one of the very first venues I displayed my artwork, starting a little over ten years ago.

As an art venue, it really has its little idiosyncracies, though. I remember one year when I took my family downtown to see my display. To my dismay I discovered my host store, a drugstore, lowered its blinds every evening. No one could see my wall hangings after 5 p.m.!

Another year, my host store had no way to hang anything in their windows–and I had wall hangings. I was allowed to use duct tape on the metal frame along the top of the windows. It seemed to work. I spent the better part of the morning running up and down a ladder, hanging each of my wall hangings from fish line that I tied to strips of duct tape, taped along the top of the window. Everything looked great!

Unfortunately, as the afternoon sun poured in the windows, the heat softened the duct tape, it gently sagged under the weight of the fiber pieces, and everything began to sadly droop. It took about 3 days for everything to actually peel off to the floor, so every two days I went in to put up fresh duct tape and rehang the work, until the end of the show.

I begged the organizers not to put me back in that store the next year. They gave it to a painter with easels for display. And I thank the Lord every day for my wonderful ProPanels display. They were not cheap, but they have made my art display issues sooooooo much easier.

Last year I was split between two stores. One was down a flight of steps, below street level. The other was right above, up a flight of steps. No problem, I thought, I’ll actually have twice as much display space.

Til I realized that a store window that’s already eight to ten feet above street level is not a good place to hang a wall hanging that’s six feet long. People could only see the bottom half of it, it was hung so high. I reconfigured my ProPanels, using only the bottom halves. I decided to display only short pieces. And I was consoled by the lovely wine tasting my downstairs host store held for me on opening night. We tasted many, many, many kinds of wine. I love Colline the wine lady!

This year I started out in one store. Yay! Then I found out which store it was. Hmmmmmm…..

There’s not much foot traffic in front of the store–it’s actually on a side street–but there’s tons of car traffic. It’s at a major intersection, and if you drive through Keene, you’re gonna get caught at that light sooner or later. As you wait for the light to change, your eyes wander to look in the handful of stores right there (narrow sidewalk, no parking, so the stores are right there)–and right there is where my work will be!

The store has four large windows, but unfortunately they are paned–about 20 panes per window, about 10″x12″ per pane. (I say “about” because I measured them wrong the first time.) (In fact, I’m beginning to realize how really, really bad I am about measuring things….) Anything big I put behind those panes would simply be chopped up and difficult to “read”.

To make up for it, I was given additional space in another storefront about 50 feet down the block for my wall hangings.

But how to create a cohesive jewelry display in those little sections?

After much thought and countless sleepless nights, I came up with a great solution.

First, I decided to just use two of the windows. That would be better than trying to utilize eighty panes! I also decided the top row or two was really out of sight of most pedestrians, and even most cars. So that narrowed the number of panes to deal with, down to about 24-30.

I rewrote down my “Animal Stories” and broke it out into sections, including a separate section for each animal mentioned. I printed out each section into its own individual sign with a huge-sized font. These could be taped directly onto the glass pane.

I would create little vignettes of jewelry and mini collages, one for each section, and each animal.

I have a large stash of leftover mat board pieces from friends who used to own a framing ship. I cut several colors of mat board into pieces that were a little bigger than the glass panes. They actually sat out about half an inch from the glass, creating a little “shadow box” in each window.

Fortunately, after cutting all the mat board, it occurred to me to actually test one to see it if actually fit in the window. Too big! I hastily trimmed them all again. Thank goodness I thought to do that before completing my display….

I affixed a selection of jewelry on each mat board. For the “artifacts” in the introduction, I laid out a sampling of artifacts. For each animal, I laid out a selection of jewelry, netsuke (small hand held sculptures) or tiny fiber collages featuring that animal.

I agonized about how to attach the jewelry and polymer pieces. I thought I could use fine wire to attach them. I have some nifty black annealed wire, very fine, and that would blend in well. But what about punching tiny holes in the mat board?? I remembered that book artists sometimes hand drill tiny holes for stitching bindings. Maybe I could do that…..?

After trying to hand drill ONE measly little hole, I almost gave up. Then I realized I had that little jeweler’s drill, with a diamond bit I use to enlarge holes in pearls and glass beads. Would that work? YES!!! It took seconds to drill each hole. Yay!!!

I marked where each hole would go to fix each piece, drilled all the holes at once, and wired each item down. It worked beautifully, and went rather quickly (considering.)

I even remembered to make a sign to let people know I had more work on display a couple stores down the street.

Again, I agonized over having to use masking tape to secure everything–I didn’t want scotch tape pulling their paint or fusing to the glass. But it didn’t show up very much, so that was a lot of needless worrying. (Please note that perfectionist tendencies are still very much in the forefront of my brain….)

It took less than an hour to fill up about 25 panes. It looked great! The fine black wire actually looked kinda neat, like an old museum displays. I’d worried that using five different colors of mat board wouldn’t look cohesive, but it gave the display some movement and a little liveliness. (The host store is painted sort of a golden yellow, and my mat boards were medium blue, rust, olive green, aqua and bittersweet orange, so the whole thing had a Van Gogh sunflower-thing going.)

I think it looks so good, I’m thinking about maybe using an old paned glass window someday as a display. It would be really hard to get the jewelry in and out of it, so I wouldn’t use it as an actual selling display. But something about the pieces being right up inside the window, only half an inch or so from the viewer, made it look lovely.

A few things were a teensy bit tippy, and after I finished hanging my wall hangings at the neighboring store, I realized I’d bumped the display when I squeezed past it to get out. But I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that.

The whole experience was an exercise in just doing my best, preparing for as much as I could, and then letting serendipity take over.

I’ll see if dear hubby can get some pics.

And I’m going to try not to hang out on the Central Square this weekend to see if I can catch people oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over my display!

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Filed under art, craft, display, jewelry, jewelry display, mental attitude, window display

STORIES

I just read a piece on writer Jodi Picoult in the latest issue of Oprah magazine, words that made me drop it and run out here to my ‘puter to write.

You can read the complete introduction here.

In essence, she says book, a work of fiction, does not stand on its own, nor does it tell one “truth”.

There is the writer telling a story, but there is also a reader connecting to it in their own unique way, bringing their own truth to it–their past, their thoughts, their future.

A good story may not make you change, but it will ask you to consider it….

Change a word here and there, and I realize she could be describing any artist.

“It’s my job as a[n] writer/artist/jewelry designer/singer/dancer/painter to tell you a story that’s going to take you away from whatever you’re doing….and make you ask yourself…..”

What?

In Ms. Picoult’s mind, she wants you to question your assumptions about yourself. “Why are my opinions what they are?“, she asks you to ask yourself. Why do you think what you think?

I realize I, too, want my collectors and followers to ask themselves these questions. In fact, the same questions I ask myself when I’m stuck:

Why do I think I can’t be a bigger person, a happier person, a better person?

Why do think I cannot achieve great things?

Why do I think I cannot be the artist/singer/dancer/writer I was meant to be?

What can I offer the world? How can I be the change I want to see it it?

The things I make are proof I can think big, I can be happy, I can be better. I can achieve great things, and I can be the artist I was meant to be.

These little birds, these bulls and bears, these horses and fish, and bones, shells, stones, are what I have to offer. The stories that come to me when I make them, they are the change I want to be.

I may slip-slide away from time to time, but when I come back to this work, I am back to myself–my best self.

When I make my jewelry with animal artifacts, I like to think that each artifact I make is a little totem, an animal spirit that speaks to someone, a certain someone. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched someone search my offerings in my booth, and suddenly exclaim over one particular piece, one special horse or bird or bear. That one!)

I see each little critter as a spirit guide, leaving my world, going out into that person’s world. Something that inspires them, supports them, celebrates their spirit. Urges them to dream, to leap, to fly.

For some reason, I see the wall hangings as the crowbar Ms. Picoult refers to, “…that slides under your skin and, with luck, cracks your mind wide open.”

Because I’ve seen that in my booth, too. Someone entering, sometimes in awe, sometimes in idle curiosity, browsing, admiring, looking–and suddenly, a certain wall hanging simply grabs them emotionally, spiritually, and takes them away to another place.

My husband pointed this out to me, how one piece will catch someone’s eye, and they stop. They move in a little closer. And then they do a little head tilt, which means, an artist friend once told me, their creative/emotional/spiritual right brain is whirring feverishly trying to process this wonderful new thing.

I love it when that happens.

Awhile back, a beloved customer asked if she could come to my studio for an hour or so, just to hang out. “I won’t be in the way,” she said. “I just need a little ‘mental vacation’, and all I can think about is your lovely studio.”

Of course I said yes, and she came by and browsed and poked around while I worked.

She then shared a wonderful story with me. She’d attended a conference at a local college, attended by people from all over the world, of every color/tribe/culture you can imagine. “As colorful as New Hampshire gets,” she said wryly. “It was amazing, the power and energy in that place.”

One speaker, a woman, gave a moving speech, and afterward, my friend met her briefly just to say thank you.

They ended up talking for a few moments. Then the woman saw my friend’s necklace–a horse necklace I had made. She reached out and touched the pendant gently and said slowly, “This little fellow is wonder-ful!” With the emphasis on “wonder”, my friend said.

“She knew your work was special,” my friend said. “She knew.” My work crossed every line of distance, culture, color and creed, and spoke the same language of a kindred heart.

I love it when that happens, too.

Stories. We all got ‘em. Good ones, too.

Start spreading them out into the world.

Can you tell I’m getting my mojo back?

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LAST SHOW OF THE SEASON

I’m running around in my usual pre-show frenzy, trying to reinvent the wheel, make up tons of new jewelry, and trying to fit a 10’x10 booth into a 11’x5′ spot.

Yes, it’s The Orchard School’s Annual Craft Fair. This wonderful little fair is now held at the beautiful Christmas Tree Inn in Marlow, NH .

I’m in it, I’m not ready, but the curtain goes up at 6 p.m. Friday night, December 5 for the fair preview. It opens for real at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, December 6.

I’ll have my signature artifact jewelry on hand, gifts for guys (yes! Cufflinks!!), plus pretty vintage button jewelry and some lovely pieces made from antique mother-of-pearl buttons.

I have to run to tae kwon do and pretend I can jump into the air throwing a kick. If I get a chance, I’ll upload some pics of the MOP jewelry later. Here is a lousy pic of some really cool earrings, made from antique mother-of-pearl buttons. They have a soft, almost metallic gleam to them, in shades of cream, silver and brown–lovely! (If I do say so myself…)

These little shows are a challenge for me, because it’s hard for me to do anything half-way. The ceilings in the room are too short for my propanels, I had to beg to get access to electricity (so I have to use 35 watt bulbs in my lights, and bring only a third of them) and I never remember to allow myself a way to get out of my booth. Oh well, who needs to eat?

But I like doing one or two of these smaller shows from time to time, because they force me to get small, to focus and to simplify my set-up. (Although I think I missed the point of this, this year….)

Wish me luck, stop by if you’re in the area, and maybe I can get some pics of my little half-booth if I remember to take my camera.

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Jewelry Display #5: Organic Design

By “organic”, I don’t mean your jewelry display has to be crunchy-granola, or even of natural materials. What I mean is, choose display that supports the style of your jewelry. Or choose display that falls away so completely, only your jewelry is noticeable.

Avoid display that overwhelms your jewelry. You’ll know this is happening when people try to buy your display fixtures! They really can’t tell what’s for sale and what isn’t.

When this happens, some craftspeople bemoan how stupid their customers are. But that’s not the case.

If your customers really can’t tell, then you have confused them. It’s your job to make the distinction clear, not their job to stand in your booth and wonder if you make and sell earrings, or if you make and sell very cool earring holders.

Avoid display that takes your work down a notch in materials or quality. Display that looks cheap will not reflect well on your hard work and creativity. You can make great display with inexpensive materials , but be sure it looks classy !

Notice when your display materials is working against your story or aesthetic. When I first started out, I used more wood fixtures for display–until people began asking me if I were making my artifacts out of wood.

Now, this is not to denigrate wood carvers, but “wood” does not normally translate into “ancient artifacts”. (Yes, people have been carving wood for ages, but it doesn’t usually last 15,000 except under unusual conditions.

If I wanted people to think I was using fossil ivory or bone or antler, then I needed to eliminate a possible comparison to wood. That’s why I’ll occasionally include deer antlers in my display. Not too much–just enough to suggest animal material rather than plant material. Something that could have endured over thousands of years instead of only hundreds.

“Organic” can actually be “techno”, if that’s your jewelry style, if the display seems like a natural extension of your work. The danger here is going too far with it.

At a major trade show, I saw a new exhibitor with extraordinary handmade cases. Made with ordinary metal hardware combined in a highly creative way, they were absolutely stunning.

They were so stunning that, though people flocked in from the aisles for a closer look, the cases actually overwhelmed her jewelry. Her jewelry was okay, but not nearly as “cutting edge” as her cases. In fact, in comparison to her cases, I was mildly disappointed in her jewelry designs. I don’t think I would have felt this way if her cases hadn’t been so wonderful.

As I looked, I heard her answer another viewer for probably the hundredth time about how she made her cases, and no, the cases were not for sale, and no, she was not taking orders for the cases, she made jewelry.

Of course, if you find yourself in this situation, maybe you could seriously consider a new career in making cases!

The concept of “organic display” is why the typical jewelry store displays like these and these don’t usually work so well with handmade jewelry.

What do they look like? They look like displays you’d see in commercial jewelry stores (where, unless it’s artisan-owned, much of the jewelry is ready-made) and department stores.

They are not usually associated with unusual, handcrafted or unique jewelry. They don’t accentuate what’s wonderful about your work. They just look too ordinary. And yet they can be so obtrusive, they won’t “disappear” and let your work shine.

They’re not totally useless–I like to include a few of these “traditional” pieces in my display, just to mix it up a bit.

You can do the experiment for yourself: The next time you set up your jewelry for your booth, take a few pictures from different angles. Preferably from where a potential customer would walk down the aisle and first see your booth.

If all you see are rows and rows of identical standard units*, ask yourself if this is really the best way for folks to understand what is wonderful about your work.

*(With apologies to the perfectly-nice people who make this jewelry for resale. It probably works for them and their market. But hopefully our market is different.)

Remember, especially when times are hard, people still love to shop. But they also try to avoid temptation. It’s so easy to run through a show and quickly eliminate an ordinary-looking booth by dismissing it as “just another jewelry booth.” I’ve done it.

Let your display stand out enough to pull them in.

But then let your work do the shining.

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Filed under art, booth display, business, craft shows, display, jewelry

MY EARS AND YOURS

My main frenzy for clearing out and decluttering has dropped off a little. But the tendency is still there, and I continue to purge in smaller “bites”. (That’s a weird sentence. Sorry.)

A few days ago I attacked my personal jewelry stash on my bedroom dresser. I picked out all the pieces I love and wear, and put them in my collection of vintage 1940’s jewelry boxes. The rest came down to my studio to be cleaned and sold, or stripped for parts.

I came across several pairs of large sterling silver hoop earrings. I absolutely love ‘em, and I had three pairs to prove it.

But I never wear them. As I cleaned the tarnish off, I wondered why?

When I put them on, one look in the mirror reminded me. I’m convinced that my ears lie too close to my head. So when I wear hoops, they stick out and look like a second pair of ears.

I started to put them in the “sell” pile, but stopped.

Every so often I get a few people in my booth or at an open studio tell me they can’t wear a particular style of jewelry because of something odd about their body.

Their neck is too short, their ears are crooked, their shoulders are too big, their neck is too thin. Then they put that piece of jewelry on to prove it to me.

They look beautiful.

I can with perfect honesty say I have never looked at a person wearing jewelry and thought, “Her neck is too short to wear that.” I have never ever noticed that someone’s ears are crooked. (I only notice if their ears are missing…)

I rarely notice if people have big feet or not. I don’t even remember ever looking at someone’s feet–until they say they have big feet, and then, of course, we all look.

The shopper won’t believe me, of course. I might just be trying to sell her something. So I ask other customers. Sure enough, everyone chimes in with positive feedback.

Of course, we’re ALL shaped a little differently. And we’re all beautiful in different ways. I’m always taken aback to hear a woman I think is drop-dead gorgeous complain about her nails, or her ankles, or her eyebrows. My daughter, who exudes health and confidence, told me recently her hair is too thin to wear in braids.

She looks adorable in braids.

I don’t know where this comes from. I don’t know why we do it. I don’t know how to make that critical little voice go away.

But I took a deep breath, and left the hoop earrings in.

If I side-swipe someone with them today, okay, I’ll take them off.

But maybe I’ll buy some more, too. Some really, really BIG ones.

p.s. Oh, I forgot–hoops get in the way when I’m on the phone. I just tried to call someone and the earring hit the “end” button. That’s why I don’t where them at home.

And the latest p.s. I just saw an magazine ad in OPRAH magazine featuring Catherine Zeta Jones (for Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Fragrance) and she’s wearing big hoop earrings and one is sticking straight out! And it accentuates the lovely curve of her neck….

That does it, I’m gonna wear my whoppin’ big hoops somewhere tonight!

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Filed under funny, humor, jewelry, mental attitude, selling

GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #23: Be Different. Please.

I’m going to pick on jewelry booths today, partly because there are so many of them at shows. And because it’s just a good example of what’s wrong with so many of these shows.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are perfectly happy with your work and your shows, don’t read any further. It will just annoy you. If you are having the degree of success you want, don’t change anything! It’s working for you, and you don’t need my opinions on what you’re doing.

But if you feel like you’re struggling and can’t figure out how to get ahead, it may be time for you to hear this:

How much dichroic glass does the world need?

I’ve visited a lot of smaller shows in my area this season. And at every single one, there are at least two, three, sometimes four craftspeople working with dichroic glass jewelry.

Is there anyone who isn’t working in dichroic glass?

More importantly, is there anyone doing something different with it?

Of the last two to three dozen dichroic glass jewelry booths I’ve visited, I saw one person–ONE–who was doing something a little different. That person had made round beads. And that was only featured in a handful of designs. (Actually, I’m not even sure you can form dichroic glass into round beads. She may have been using purchased beads that just resembled dichroic glass….?)

Dichroic glass is popular because it’s colorful and bright. It’s also chunky and clunky. I have a feeling you can now also buy it at craft stores like Michael’s.

That means you’ve either got to be absolutely brilliant at working with it….

…or it’s time to move on to something else.

Another overused jewelry category is necklaces made with beads anyone can get. The pattern is something like “Bali spacer, semi-precious stone bead, Bali spacer, semi-precious stone bead, etc.” Sometimes someone goes out on a limb and uses two Bali bead spacers. Or two different colors of stone beads.

Dichroic glass, semi-precious stone beads, Swarovski crystals, Czech glass beads (or worse, cheap Indian glass beads)… Whatever. These ready-made materials are easily available, and they have saturated the jewelry market. In the end, it’s hard to come up with anything really different, innovative or unusual.

This kind of jewelry-making is called “bead stringing.” And the word “bead stringer” has become an insult among jewelry designers. I couldn’t see why until I started visiting websites and perusing craft fairs again, and browsing on-line handcrafted jewelry sites.

It’s because that’s ALL that’s out there.

I know it’s how we all get started. I know, I know, I know. I did the same thing when I first started out.

But it seems like in the last ten or twelve years since I started, everyone and their sister is now making jewelry. Access to supplies and resources is easier than ever. Anyone can make it–and does, it seems. If a ten-year-old can do it as well as you (and yes, at an Arts Business Institute seminar, I once mentored a ten-year-old who made jewelry almost as well as anything I’ve seen so far) then that says something.

And a ten-year-old may outsell you with the same work, as you’ll see below.

When everybody is doing the same thing, then it becomes all about

a) pricing
b) salesmanship
c) presentation
and d) story.

You can compete with your pricing. But you must understand that when it comes to price, there is no bottom. There are stores importing huge amounts of sterling silver and semi-precious stone jewelry from India, China, Indonesia and you cannot underprice them. I’ve seen sterling silver rings with semi-precious stone cabochons for under $4.00 at gift stores. I’m sure they are not very fine rings. But they looked okay, and if your work’s only competitive edge is price, then your customer will choose that $4 ring over your $12 ring.

You may be happy with your sales at your smaller craft shows offering low prices. But you will not be able to grow your business much past a small local market. You will only attract bargain-hunters. And you will not be able to wholesale to stores and galleries.

Presentation helps! The only booth with semi-precious stone beads and silver jewelry I even paused at had decent presentation and display–coordinated colors in table cloths and drapes, nice banners, beautiful display. And she had slightly more original designs.

But in the end, it was all still so much like everything else out there. And I passed.

Salesmanship helps. Knowing how to act when customers stop to browse will go a long way to closing a sale, and we’ve seen how very simple questions and statements can give your customers the emotional space to do just that.

The last thing that can help set your work apart is story. Being able to share with your audience why you do this is a huge edge. (Please, not because you love it. Frankly, why should I care?? When an artist says, “I just love color!”, I have to bite my tongue to respond with, “So who doesn’t love color??!”)

And here’s where than ten-year-old is going to beat you out. Is there anything cuter than a 10-year-old with the entrepeneurial spirit? If her work is just as good as yours, or even almost as good as yours, I’m going to buy her work to encourage her to follow her dreams. Or make enough money for her to go to summer camp.

Once again: If you are in this to make a little money at Christmas and to have a little fun, then ignore everything I’ve said in this post. As I said, we all have to start somewhere. I’d hate for you to see the kind of work I started with!

But if you have bigger dreams in your heart, then start thinking ahead. Use the money you make from these shows to take classes, to gain more skills, to expand your techniques, to buy better materials and tools.

That’s what I did.

When your season slows, take time to look into your heart and explore what you really want to come of all this hard work and perseverance.

That’s what I did.

Make sure you have a good product that’s different, high quality, that you absolutely love to make.

That’s what I did.

Because when you find your audience, you’re going to be with this product a long, long time.

Make sure it’s something you can live with, something you can be proud of making for years to come.

Make sure it’s the very best you can do. And take every opportunity to make it even better.

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Filed under art, booth behavior, business, craft shows, display, Good booths gone bad, jewelry, selling

IT’S WORKING! (Time Management, That Is…)

So how has my experiment with avoiding the computer and phone calls been progressing? I would say very well indeed!

I’ve tried to avoid as many distractions as possible. When I hit my studio first thing in the morning, I sit at my work table, not my computer. When the phone rings, I check to see if it’s a call that has to be answered, or can wait. If I’m not sure, I listen to the message to check. If I’m already doing handwork that’s compatible with listening, I pick up. I’ve tried to limit the calls and get as much information by e-mail as I can.

The results?

I’ve been reworking some small fiber collage fragments, making them into miniature wall hangings. They’re looking good! I even have a stash of very tiny beaver-chewed sticks to hang them with, collected for me by fellow polymer artist Connie Gray.

I’ve been working much more steadily on new jewelry designs. If you check out my new website, you’ll see the colorful new work that’s literally been flowing through my hands.

What I love best about it is that it all came as a natural evolution, starting with that one customer’s special order request for a “black bird” artifact over a year ago. The “bird” part became a new animal motif and the “black” part became a new faux finish technique (soapstone).

As I experimented with the soapstone finish, I remembered that some of my Inuit soapstone carvings were actually greenish in hue–more like steatite than soapstone. I made “green soapstone”. These two different hues in turn led to both of my new colorways: The soft gray-black artifacts complimented by intense coral red, lapis blue and turquoise green (the Mojave series). The slate green artifacts accented with “water” colors–translucent aquas, ice blues, pale sea greens (the Glacier series. You can see my new jewelry with all these luscious new colors.

Again, all natural progressions, following a line of thought and listening to the artifacts themselves. Not some self-imposed “change for the sake of change” thinking, which for ME always leads to artificial places and shallow waters.

Unfortunately, this process has impacted my writing. It’s been harder to write regularly. There’s no angst to work through. Okay, not as much angst. There’s still plenty of emotional drama in my life!

Then I realize it’s just as important to share what’s working. To talk about what’s going well.

In fact, that’s really important–to dwell on the good stuff. We tend to focus on what’s going wrong, and not on what’s going right. It’s our human nature–we’re hardwired to pay attention to bad stuff–but this is one aspect of my nature I’d like some balance restored to!

Now, what about my attempts to restore order and organization to my studio?

Hmmmm….well, let’s just say I’m not in a position to post any photos of my worktable….

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Filed under art, creativity, inspiration, life, time management, writing