Monday, September 30, 2013

Selling Jewelry Online: Changing Tastes

I've been selling my handmade jewelry on Etsy for about 2 1/2 years now and I thought I had my customers figured out. My wire wrapped jewellery has sold much better than my enamel pieces and people have really seemed to like my Happy Hearts Earrings and wire wrapped infinity rings:

This year, the Happy Hearts are still popular, but I've only sold a few infinity rings whereas I sold dozens in 2012. In 2013, on the other hand, people have purchased more of my enamel items and more of my high-end pieces:

I'm not complaining at all -- I'm glad that people are willing to spend money on my work and that I'm not just a one-trick pony; I just like to figure out WHY certain types of pieces are more popular at different times. I feel that if I can decipher this code, then it'll help me make more sales.

So far, the only thing I can conclude is that the infinity rings became popular for a short time because of the show Revenge (the infinity symbol was a big part of the storyline). That show was red-hot during its first season and isn't quite as big a media sensation as it once was. As for my enamel pieces, I like to think that I've gotten more skilled at making them, but some of the ones purchased are from my original collection.

What I really ought to do is study up on popular jewelry and see what trends are picking up steam... but then again, I really just like to do my own thing. At craft fairs, people often tell me that they like my work BECAUSE it's different from what they usually see at stores. Plus, I like to experiment.

I'm not sure that I'll ever come up with an answer as to why people buy one type of item one year and then another kind the next. All I can do is continue to make quality pieces and hope that they appeal to at least one person out there.

To purchase my handmade jewelry, head to Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wire Wrapped Jewelry Designs: Rhapsody In Blue

Now that I've sold my work at a couple dozen craft fairs I have a pretty good idea of what types of jewelry will sell at what venues. However, I'm sometimes still surprised at the outcome.

In order to prepare for this past weekend's art fair, I made a lot of high end pieces: gold earrings, intricate bib necklaces... the types of jewelry that would attract a person who was looking for something "artistic." But many people ended up admiring the two fun wire wrapped pieces that I made with electric blue wire:

To be honest, not much thought was put into the necklace or this pair of earrings. I had some leftover blue wire and decided to experiment with it. But both received many compliments! No one actually purchased either piece -- I guess actually wearing bright blue jewelry may have been too much for my customers -- but almost everyone noticed them when they stopped by my stand. They'd pick up the necklace or earrings and be like, "Oh, look at these, they're so beautiful!" and then buy something else that was a little more subdued (not that I'm complaining; a sale is a sale!).

I look to my customers to see what people like in jewelry and their reactions are making me think that I should use colored wire in more of my adult pieces. I use a lot of colors in my children's jewelry line, but for the adults, I tend to stick to the tried-and-true gold, silver and copper wire. The blue is very striking against the black lava; I'm now wondering how a lava stone would look if it were wire wrapped in pink or green. That could be fun, right?

What I ultimately want is for my jewelry to make the wearer feel good about herself -- and if a touch of color brightens her day, then more color it is!

To purchase my jewellery, head to Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.

Tales From Enameling Class

First, the bad news: The specialty bracelet class which I was planning to take, was cancelled since not enough people signed on for it. But the good news is that my enameling class is back in session. Yay!

I hadn't realized how much I'd missed making enamel jewelry until I had my "enamel emergency" a few weeks ago. That was such a rush job, though, that I didn't really get to enjoy the process (sidenote: the customer for whom I made that pendant liked her piece! Hurrah!). I was happy to return to my class where I could relax, take my time and really work on my enameling skills.

Right now, I'm still working on making champleve pieces. Last semester, I managed to successfully complete champleve earrings, but I want to work on some more complicated designs.

Over the summer, I etched out several pieces of metal and just have to place the enamel. In yesterday's class I put together a champleve pendant that has a cool nautical design; it kind of looks like abstract fish swimming upstream. I placed silver foil on the metal, then covered the foil with a white base... only I burned the first coat and had to apply two additional coats in order to mask it. By the time I set the cloisonne wire and added color, you could hardly see the shimmery foil, but the pendant is still turning out pretty well. I used aqua, deep blue, green and purple to reflect the ocean's colors -- and those hues look good against the copper frame. I still need to plug up a couple of tiny cracks and clean up the metal; once I've done that, I'm going to make a chain with turquoise beads. I should have it finished by next week so I'll post photos. After that, I think I want to continue with a nautical theme and make another pendant that features graphics of shells.

My teacher is anxious to show me some other techniques and this will be a good time to learn them. The fall semester is 13 weeks long and pretty much goes right into the winter semester so I basically have all year to perfect my work. Meantime, I like doing champleve and want to make a few more pieces for my next craft fair, which is in October.

To purchase my jewellery, head to Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tales From The Art Fair

Yes, you read my title correctly. The event in which I participated yesterday was not a "craft fair," but an "art fair."

A while back I was contacted by my neighborhood's arts council and was invited to apply for this event. I never even knew that my neighborhood HAD an arts council, but it sounded as if it would be a great fair -- and indeed it was! For one thing, it was held at the small park that's right up the street from my home so I didn't have to travel. We also had perfect fall weather, even though the forecast had called for rain.

Only 20 vendors were chosen for this fair, but it seems as if the council chose carefully. There were a couple of painters, as well as a glass blower and a man who carved wooden bowls. One jewelry vendor made pieces by carving wampum (shells) and explained that he has to do his work under water with a special ventilator because the shell residue can dry out his lungs. Yikes! (and I thought using a kiln is risky!). His stuff was amazing, though, much different than anything I've seen. I really enjoyed seeing the work of other local artists.

As for me, I did really well at this fair! It's funny how much more seriously people take you if the event is called an "art fair" as opposed to a flea market or craft fair. But I made a lot of sales and people treated me with respect. I actually sold two high-end pieces this week -- one online and one at the fair -- and it feels good to know that people are willing to pay for my work.

I felt a little badly because the woman who purchased my double-sided "Fire And Ice" wire wrapped enamel necklace was a little confused about the price. She heard me say one thing ... and thought it was much lower than its actual cost. I had to correct her and was afraid that she'd nix the sale, but she just sort of shrugged and said, "Okay" and handed over the rest of the money. I explained to her WHY it costs what it does and she appreciated the amount of labor that was put into it. At other fairs, people would've been like, "That's too expensive."

Not everyone who stopped by my booth bought my jewelry, but many asked questions and were genuinely interested in how I make my pieces. One woman told me that my work should be in a museum. I don't really agree with her, but it was such a nice compliment! Another young lady suggested that I make more statement pieces. I explained that some customers prefer to wear simple designs, but I'm now coming up with more statement design ideas, as well. Then there was a woman who kept trying to get her boyfriend to buy a piece for himself ... so that she could wear it, LOL. He didn't, but he did ask a lot of questions and was a good sport.

What's really cool is that my Nefertiti's Kiss necklace is now "famous," thanks to it being on the poster. Several people recognized it from the ad and came over to admire it. Woodcarving Man's wife told me that one of his bowls was on the poster, too... but when she brought it into her office, everyone was asking her about my necklace.

I'm glad that I did well with sales yesterday, but I don't only care about the money (though being able to pay the rent is a good thing). For the first time in a while, I felt as if I'm a legit artist -- and that my work MEANS something. A lot of people don't really understand my career(s); when I explain that I make/sell jewelry and write novels, they look at me as if I'm a big flake. Honestly, it was much easier to explain my work to others when I had my 9-5 job at the magazine. It meant a lot for me to have people recognize the labor that I put into my jewelry and to appreciate my creations. I'm not asking for others to fawn all over me as if I'm royalty, but getting respect is satisfying.

To purchase my jewelry, head to Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Enameled Jewelry: Test Of Skill

My enameling skills were put to the test yesterday when I was hit with a "jewelry emergency" and had to race to complete a necklace.

I was away for Labor Day Weekend when I got an e-mail from Etsy saying that I'd sold one of my enamel necklaces. Of course I was thrilled because I haven't sold that many enameled items online; they usually sell much better at craft fairs. I planned to box up the necklace on Monday night so I could get it out first thing Tuesday morning; as a small business owner, I like to ship things as quickly as possible and not make my customers wait.

However, when I got home, I could not find this necklace. I'm pretty organized when it comes to stocking my pieces, but I had no idea where this one went. I don't remember selling it... but I must have since it wasn't with my other enameled jewelry. I'm just surprised that I hadn't marked it as "sold out." Because I don't have a kiln, it isn't as easy to make enameled jewelry -- and the Y's classes don't start up again until the end of the month.

I was determined to get this piece to the customer, though, so I schlepped to Brooklyn to visit the jewelry store where I'd taken classes. About a month ago I contacted the owner to see if I could purchase some bench time and use their kiln; he agreed and told me to show up whenever I wanted. But I haven't had time to make it down there so I never followed up. The store's site said that it was open until 9 p.m., though, so I planned to arrive around 1 p.m. I figured that I'd buy 20 hours of bench time and could spend the afternoon making this piece and then maybe working on some of my champleve jewelry.

Once I arrived, however, the woman in charge told me that she was about to leave -- and that they only had bench time at certain hours on certain days. What? This was NOT what the store owner told me. I repeated his message to me and explained that I had an "emergency." She agreed to give me an hour to make my necklace. GULP.

The thing is, it takes nearly an hour for the kiln to heat to 1500 degrees F if it hasn't been running. Of course, the kiln wasn't on ... which meant that I'd have to wait a very long time for it to be of use. I was desperate, though, and had to do something... so I made most of my piece by simply torching it.

Torching enamel works, but it isn't quite as effective as a kiln because the heat isn't as evenly distributed. It's a little like trying to make a gourmet meal on a hot plate. But I was determined to complete this piece so I worked on the main side. Somehow I managed to torch the cloisonne design into place without melting the silver. The store's materials are terrible, though, especially compared to the Y's. The strikers (used to light the torch) wouldn't, well, strike, and it was very frustrating. But I pressed on and finished the main side with the design. I couldn't do the counter side because I didn't want to burn the main design with the torch flame.

Once I'd laid down the enamel, I wet packed the colors onto the front. Normally I'd add enamel to the counter side to keep the piece from bending and cracking, but as I said above, I had to wait to do that. I also usually wait for the wet enamel to dry before I fire it, but time was running out. I used a cloth to blot at the enamel and prayed that it would fire correctly.

I attempted to fire the piece in the kiln, but it still wasn't hot enough. And then disaster struck. Another girl who was working there bumped me ... and I dropped my piece onto the floor. The enamel hadn't fired correctly so the powdered glass spilled all over the floor. I was ready to scream.

I again wetpacked the colors and didn't even wait for them to dry. I simply fired the glass with the torch. And then I didn't even wait for the piece to cool; I just dipped it into a glass of cold water. You know what? It worked. If my Y teacher saw me skipping these steps, she'd give me a good lecture, but my pendant was starting to come together. I didn't quite feel as if I were in control, especially since I was in a rush, but it looked nice.

By now the kiln had finally reached about 1200 degrees F so I again tried to use it to apply the two coats of counter glass. This time, I kept the piece in for about three minutes -- and this worked. The glass hardened and glossed as it was supposed to. Whew! The other girl working, the one who'd bumped me, even said, "Wow, that's good." So I guess it looked okay to an outsider.

I managed to finish my piece just at the hour mark. I wanted to clean it a bit more, but I could tell that this woman was ready to leave so I figured I'd just fix it up at home. I grabbed my things and hurried out of there, grateful that I'd successfully put together the pendant. And then, just as I was getting off the subway, I remembered that I'd forgotten to turn off the kiln. OOPS!

I called the store as soon as I got home and the woman said that she'd turned off the kiln for me. Thank goodness! I feared that the store would blow up or something.

I'm amazed that I managed to finish this piece in time, and that I could mail it out today. I really hope that the customer likes it. I think that it's pretty, but I didn't like having to rush through the work. I'm not one to cut corners, especially when it comes to putting out quality products. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that the woman stayed for an extra hour so that I could work at the last minute... but on the other hand, I'm annoyed that I hadn't been given the full scoop on bench time hours. Don't tell someone to "just show up" if you don't mean it.

Though I had to race to get this done, it did feel good to get back to enameling. Now that I have 19 hours of bench time left, I might as well use them before class begins. I guess I'll be making more trips to Brooklyn...

To purchase my jewelry, head to Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.