Header

To enter our monthly Jewelry Design Challenges Click here! To see the current calendar of events for SRAJD Click here!

To join our Facebook Discussion Group Click here! Check out our current SRAJD Gift Guide

Saturday, January 31, 2015

SRAJD Week 3 Topic WIRE WORK

The topic for week #3 is “Wire Work”.


Bonnie Jacobsen led us in this week’s discussions on the subject of wire work. That is, btw, one of her lovely pieces as our topic photo. If you'd like to check out more of her work, here's her website.

Wire-work is the January jewelry design challenge theme so now’s the time to get going on that project.  Submit your design by clicking the link at the top of the blog post (just above the date of each blog post).

Bonnie has graciously started us off with a photo tutorial to make a very cool pair of earrings. Click here for the link to the PDF.
http://artisimportant.com/SRAJD/Contests/2015/Bonnie%20Jacobsen%20Wire%20Work%20Dangle%20Earrings%20Tutorial.pdf

So what's everyone's experience with wire work? Love it? Hate it? Tried it? Great at it? On the "to do" list?

Tammy Adams: My "wire work" expertise is fairly limited, and more functional (for connections) than decorative. I think I've mastered the wrapped loop, although I still get a wonky one on occasion. I enjoy free-from or rustic wraps for things like bead cages and pendant bails. I admire the wire weavers and often drool over their designs. However, I've come to the conclusion that kind of precision work is not for me.

Laura Bracken: Tammy, I am also not a clever hand at wire work. I'm glad Bonnie's showing us a few techniques, though, because I think being able to do certain things with wire (if not the way out there elaborate stuff) can add a dimension of possibilities to our work.

Tammy Adams: Agreed, Laura. I used a tutorial to wrap smaller beads around a donut pendant (the one for my Marble Caves challenge design last year) and really liked the technique for enhancing a focal.

Laura Bracken: We should share photos of things we non wire workers have done with wire that was new for us. I went through a phase (a phase that lasted all of one piece) where I made a wire frame and weaved beads onto it... It was a gingko leaf.


Jo Pound: I love wirework and it was what I started out doing but the hands said that was too hurtful and had softer things in mind. I have moved on to bead embroidery and totally love it--but I 'drool' as Laura put it over it.

Bonnie Jacobsen: Learning to make findings was a huge plus and saves money.

Barbara Sadler Swinton: The feature in the SRAJD blog post shows a macrame wire bracelet that I made in a class...
 ... it was pretty tough on the hands, though I imagine it might get easier the more you do it. Other than that, these are about as intricate as my wire wrapping has gotten.

Tammy Adams: Well, since you asked, (although those who followed the challenge no doubt will have deja vu), this is the wrapped donut focal of which I am pretty proud. Not sure I remember exactly how to get it started, or whether I bookmarked the tutorial, in case I ever want to do it again. Oops.


Nohline Sharp L'Ecuyer: This is a sample of what I learned to do this past week - wire weaving from a master.

Barbara Sadler Swinton: This weaving is wonderful! It looks just like a fiber weaving sampler from my past. It's so nice and even...and pretty!!! Would love to hear more about it - it looks like great fun:) More!

Barbara Sadler Swinton: Nohline was this hard on your hands?

Nohline Sharp L'Ecuyer: Not hard on your hands but a little physical, yes.

Becci Zaddack: This was my 1st successful wire wrap piece. I gifted it to my Mom for Christmas and she thinks it's really neat that I gave her my 1st successful piece and very much treasures it!

Laura Bracken: Adding as many handmade components to our jewelry sets us apart from the crowd. Here's Bonnie's tutorial on making your own.
http://artisimportant.com/SRAJD/Contests/2015/Bonnie%20Jacobsen%20Handmade%20Earwires%20Tutorial.pdf

Katherine Gingrich: I will now provide some comic relief. Almost twenty years ago, I actually made pieces like this hideous monstrosity and sold a lot of them. Someone then ripped off this ludicrous idea and produced them too. Snort!!!

Kelly Hosford Patterson: I was actually a florist before I started jewelry, so I got my wire working basics from making corsages. This is my first fancy wire work piece. An experiment that turned out pretty cool.

Mary Deacy Rembach: This month's Step by Step Wire Jewelry featured this balled copper wire bracelet. Each link is joined and them wrapped in and out. Talk about rough on the hands. It called for 18 gauge wire and it was very tough to wrap because after the first wrap around the mandrel you had to remove it and them wrap the ends in and out of the first wrap. I found it hard to keep the circle shape while pulling the wire in and out. I do love wire work in general but I would have liked this better with jump rings between the links because it doesn't sit flat on the wrist and you also don't see all of the balled ends because some of them sit against the wrist rather than on top of it.

Laura Bracken: Here's another tutorial generously created for the SRAJD members by Bonnie Jacobsen.
http://artisimportant.com/SRAJD/Contests/2015/Bonnie%20Jacobsen%20Basic%20Coils%20and%20Weaving%20for%20Practice.pdf


Laura Bracken: And here are a couple of Bonnie's pieces so you can see some of these techniques in action.

Laura Bracken: Check out Bonnie's FB page or website to see many more wire work designs to inspire and encourage you.

Laura Bracken: Bonnie, I'd like to thank you for your help this week on the subject of wire-work. And thanks again for making these awesome tutorials.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Announcing the Winner for the SRAJD December 2014 Jewelry Design Challenge

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in December 2014 SRAJD challenges. The results for the "Members Selected Themes" challenges can be seen here:

Botanical
Whimsical
Winter
Bubbles
Beach

The administrative staff at SRAJD selected one overall winner for the December challenges. This person’s designs were chosen as best exemplifying the challenge themes.

Congratulations Neva Murtha of Spiral River Designs!

Here are Neva's  submissions:

Botanical



Winter
Bubbles
Beach 

We thought it would be nice to get to know a little bit more about Neva so I asked her some questions…

What prompts you to embrace the SRAJD jewelry-making challenges?

A bunch of recent work aligned perfectly with the themes!

How did you learn your craft?

I’m self-taught and I usually learn by getting an inspiration and then learning what I need to learn in order to make the inspiration manifest. I love staying at my technical edge.

What do you think is the most interesting thing about your creative expression?

What interests me most is how I observe certain designs and creations with certain stones want to be manifest through me - the idea or inspiration persists until it’s manifest. Sometimes it’s a series of creations with certain stones (BC nephrite jade, tourmaline, aquamarine, citrine for example) and sometimes it is about rings or a series of bracelets. I make some time to follow the inspiration and then it usually becomes one of my best sellers. And when it comes to stones I usually look up the metaphysical meaning after I have been working with it awhile only to discover how aligned my recent journey has been with the properties of the stones. And then I realize the creation wanted to be birthed to reflect a truth to me, or remind me of something.

What themes do you pursue?

The themes I pursue are usually linked to the way I describe my creative expression above. For example, blue tourmaline will provoke me and then it’s all about what beautiful creation wants to be made with blue tourmaline. Or I’ll be in the studio and the sage bush outside starts sending me ideas for sage leaf earrings. Or I’ll go the beach and the cedar trees will whisper their secrets until I create a bunch of pieces with cedar leaf and bark textures.

Did you always want to be a jewelry artist?

I have always been an artist and I have always had a deep affinity with the ‘stone people’ but three years ago I had no idea I was a latent jewelry artist. I have a degree in fine arts with a specialization in printmaking (etching) and after university I followed my heart into pottery (also self-taught). And then the stones called and provoked me. Had I known 20 years ago or more that I loved making jewelry and had a skill with it, I imagine I would have studied that instead of fine arts…but that was not my path. I am grateful for the jewelry because I experience it to be an amazing way to combine my love of form, texture and colour into wearable art.

What are the biggest challenges that you face as a self-representing jewelry artist?

My biggest challenges are having enough time to follow and manifest every inspiration I have (there are several pent up right now). And I have discovered it’s a massive amount of work to maintain my own website and direct traffic to it.

What role does the artist have in society?

Oh my, so many. This has been a question I have pondered for more than 20 years. What I have come to observe is that artists using any medium are channels of creation – something wants to be created and that something pulses though the person to create it…think of all the great masters. Artists can show us what incredible beauty exists all around us. They show us how to heal and express and inspire. They show us how to care about space and beauty. They show us how to transcend the mundane. They show us what is under the surface in the collective unconscious. They show us what inspiration is and how to be free while also being a technical master. (My partner says ‘there would be no society without artists’, as he laughs.)

How has your art changed over time?

My art (creative expression)– whether it is etchings, pottery, drawing, creating a beautiful home and garden, was initially a way I processed my truth and true nature. When I look back at my creations from 20 years ago I know that what was being expressed through me was something I had not yet totally embraced in my being. And my art has always been a way of expressing my spiritual path. What I find amazing is that the stones provoked me into starting to make jewelry when I started to feel whole as a result of my spiritual path. Now, I experience my jewelry creations as an expression of that wholeness and you’ll see the symbols of that in many of the shapes I use.

What does the future hold for you?

I see many ‘rings of light’ featuring amazing stones, as beauty and inspiration continue to provoke technical mastery.

Neva, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. It’s an immense pleasure seeing your work and getting to know you better!

See more of Neva's fabulous jewelry here:
Neva in the Spiral River
www.thespiralriver.etsy.com
www.thespiralriver.com




 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SRAJD Week 2 Topic THE BUSINESS PLAN



This week’s topic was “The Business Plan”.   
And the conversation started at the most logical point, with someone asking , “What is a business plan?”

And as Tammy Adams voiced her opinion, I felt it probably spoke for a lot of us: “…There are so many things about the business side of selling jewelry that I have had my head in the sand about. I'm ready to pay attention to them, but can't quite figure out where to start.”

Many members spoke up about wanting to do this, so I am very grateful to Katherine Gingrich for putting this info together for us and keeping us on task.

So back to, “What is a business plan?”  I first took a quote from wiki: “A business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons they are believed attainable, and the plan for reaching those goals.”

Then added a quote from this website, “Recently someone asked me why they needed a business plan if they were getting all the funding they needed from friends and relatives. It sounded to me as if they were thinking of a business plan as just a fund-raising tool. In fact, a business plan is much more than that: It's a tool for understanding how your business is put together. You can use it to monitor progress, hold yourself accountable and control the business's fate. And of course, it's a sales and recruiting tool for courting key employees or future investors."

Marcia Zammit stated, “Yes I do have a business plan although the one that I have for my jewelry is not as formal as the other ones that I have for my other online businesses. It's still very focused nonetheless - especially this year's. I know where I am and I know where I want to be. I have a plan on how to get there and I also know what it's going to take to get me there. “ 

Later Marcia went on to add: “A business plan is simply knowing where your business is right now and figuring out where you want it to be in the coming year/s. It is essentially what you're going to do to get your business where you want it to be.  Because if you don't know where you're going, how are you going to choose the road that will take you there and how are you going to know that you got there. “

Dana Hickey shed more light on the subject of what and why, “It might be easier to think of it as long term goals. What do you want for your business. What do you need to do to make it happen. Then break it down into manageable steps. Your business plan is something you can check in on to be sure you're still on track, and heading towards your goals. It can be used to get you back on track if you're not meeting your expectations. It is as flexible as your goals are.”

Katherine got us formally started with this post: “It's easy to get caught up in the creative process and forget just how expensive running a business can be. Writing a business plan and doing periodic reviews will help you make more money which is a very good thing. It will also help keep you from investing in equipment that won't help your bottom line.

The overall parts of a business plan are outlined in the
U.S. Small Business Administration's website. This is not the order in which you will write your plan. It's the order in which the final printed version is shown to investors. 

A business plan is an ever-evolving process rather than a single document (unless you are looking for investors). At the end of each year, I review my sales data with a CPA and make changes to my plan as needed.  You may or may not need a full-blown Business Plan.  Even if you don't complete the entire plan, there are some sections bear some scrutiny to increase your profit margin as much as possible.  Ultimately, this is going to be your business plan so you need to do the research and write your own plan. I will discuss some of the things you may want to consider in your plan.

Finally, everyone has a different method of writing a plan. I tend to write my personal business plans on half-sheets of paper so I can shuffle parts around. It's portable and writing by hand helps me organize my thoughts more effectively. Others use word processors such as WordPerfect or Word. There are some free programs out there like Open Office. Google Documents is another option if you need more than one person to read/write your plan.”

I then remarked that, “… with such a daunting task ahead it's easy to get all "deer in the headlights" and just freeze... and do nothing.

Nohline L’Ecuyer added, “Writing a business plan can be a huge amount of work and particularly for a lot of people who live off creating, I can understand how writing a business plan would draw time away from "making things to make money". That being said however, a business plan is a useful tool to keep you on track. We had done one in our management company but it was'nt updated fro several years. I had to do one for my graduate degree and that was a huge job that involved some serious market research. To be quite honest, I don't want to spend that amount of time writing a business plan. I do however think that a quick, really no more than 2 pages, plan for our kind of endeavours would suffice. But I will refer to Katherine on this one, she seems to have far more experience.”

Katherine then gave us the typical parts of a business plan and numbered them based on an idea of what order we should tackle them in.

  • Executive Summary -- 7
  • Company Description -- 1
  • Market Analysis -- 3
  • Organization and Management -- 6
  • Service or Product Line -- 2
  • Marketing and Sales -- 4
  • Funding Request -- Probably not needed
  • Financial Projections -- 5
  • Appendix -- As needed

“Since this is the SRAJD, I'm guessing that almost everyone here already makes jewelry and/or jewelry components. We'll start with that premise. I would write the sections in the order above because that would make the most sense to me. Other types of businesses may write in differing orders.

You don't need to sit down and write your entire business plan in one swoop. I did that when I started out. You can just put it in with the maintenance portion of your week or month. Whatever time you can devote is going to be beneficial. Even just looking at a specific bit of your business such as online venues would help. It's easy to get lost in the creative process and lose track of the bottom line.”

Now I will post, without interruption, the information Katherine provided:

7: Executive Summary

If you are looking for financial backing, you will need to write an Executive Summary. This is usually the last part of a Business Plan that gets written.  Most of us will not need to do write this section but certain elements of an Executive Summary are useful to at least look at so you can include this information in packets to be handed out to galleries/retail stores if you're going to go that route. I'll discuss some of the relevant points if you're writing for a promotional packet:

Mission Statement -- A couple of sentences that explains your company and what you're trying to accomplish. Eg. My Jewelry Company specializes in bridal jewelry for the upscale executive woman. Our designs use traditional materials such as pearls and precious metals but in unique designs that may be worn with business attire after the wedding.

Company Information -- State if you're a sole business owner or a partnership etc. How long have you been in business? Where is your business located?

Products and Services -- What types of jewelry do you manufacture? Just a brief description. Eg: pierced earrings with dangling lampwork beads.

Future Plans -- If you're writing this to include in promotional packets, it wouldn't hurt to put in some of your future plans to show that you're thinking ahead and plan to be around for a while. Artists are notorious for disappearing and not fulfilling orders. It helps to appear to be planning ahead.

1: Company Description

This is a short description of what you plan to do. What you manufacture and where you plan to market your product. What is your consumer base? How do you plan to compete in the market place?

For example: My Jewelry Company manufactures lampworked focal beads. I will market my beads both as a finished necklaces and bracelets and also as components to be used by other jewelry designers. My finished beads will be marketed to retail consumers online and through shows. They will also be sold wholesale to other retail stores and galleries. The beads will be marketed wholesale to other jewelry designers online and through brick and mortar bead stores. Although lampworked beads are currently manufactured by many others, I am confident that I will succeed because ___________________

The hard part is filling in the blank. I tend to write as an engineer. Most of the detail stuff gets thrown into an appendix. At this point, I would start files for the Appendices:

Online venues to market finished necklaces and bracelets.
List of shows I wish to attend to market finished product.
List of galleries/retail stores that may want to carry finished product.
List of components you will need to purchase to complete the necklaces/bracelets and sources for those components. eg: leather cording, clasps, etc.

Online venues to market beads.
List of wholesale bead shows.
List of bead stores currently operating in desired market.

That's why I use half-sheets of paper. It allows me to scribble down these things as they occur to me and then I can file them appropriately. Your experience may vary. This is just a business plan -- it will evolve over time. Don't get too wrapped up in making it perfect (unless you want investors).

3: Market Analysis

This is the big one and probably the most important one you'll write (in a bunch of manageable appendices, of course). Most artists have a pretty good idea of what they're going to make (whether or not it's actually profitable). This is the section that will help decide whether or not your idea is marketable and if it will make you money.

Take a good look at the jewelry industry -- historically and current state. This is an industry that rides on trends and marketing. Tiny jewelry one year. Huge statement necklaces the next. Cuffs are everywhere then completely disappear. This can make or break an artisan company. Sticking your head in the sand and making a style that's long over isn't going to help your bottom line. You need to keep current and make money to continue as a business.

Take a look at all of the markets in the jewelry business. When do people traditionally buy jewelry: weddings, engagements, Valentines, Mother's day, birthdays, special events. Women buy jewelry to go out socially. They also buy jewelry for work. Men don't buy nearly as much jewelry as women, but are easier to sell to since the market isn't oversaturated. What kind of jewelry do you plan to make? You might be tempted to "keep your options open and design for everything" but that's probably going to up your production costs significantly.

I live just outside DC, so I make small to medium size contemporary jewelry for female business executives. Biggest return on my investment in the area where I live. We also have a farm in PA. Not a chance in the world of selling contemporary jewelry in this area of Pennsylvania. I'd have to create a more nature-inspired line if I were to sell around the farm. You will need to decide what will sell best in the market you wish to conquer.

Market Analysis -- Part 2 Demographics

Determine the demographics of your potential clients. This is extremely important if you're doing shows. Whenever I book a show, I do demographics on the state and county of the show. I also do demographics on the closest towns. This allows me to determine what price points to use to fill out my inventory. It makes no sense to book a show then come with jewelry completely outside the expected price range.

I write an appendix for each show that I do. I also keep my show stats in this location. That way I can look at trends for each show in relationship to the demographics. Yes, I know. Lots of bookkeeping and statistics. That's how you make money. You turn your company into an actual business.

Fortunately, demographic information is readily available online. In addition to the regular government information, you can do regional searches for brick and mortar stores to determine if it's a Walmart area or a Bloomingdales area. Look at the local restaurants to determine cultural diversity so you can adapt your product line to the individual show.

Market Analysis -- Part 3 Pricing

You will need to determine how to price your items. Don't be tempted to look at similar designs and price around the same amount. Pricing doesn't work that way.

First, determine how much you want to charge per hour for your labor.

Determine how much time it takes to make a type of item in your line. For example, how long does it take to make a pair of lampwork bead earrings? Be sure to include the approximate amount of time it takes to order the components. There's also overhead time for packing and shipping if you're selling online (or time at shows otherwise).

What is the material cost of the item (include postage, etc)?

There are many formulas used to actually calculate the price of the jewelry. Ms. Laura has a spreadsheet that works well. I have my own formula in a spreadsheet form.

The secret jewelry markups are gold -- 5X material costs. Sterling 20X material costs. That's what you encounter if you walk into a large retail jewelry store. Plus labor and overhead, of course.

Whatever formula you choose to use, if you plan to sell wholesale, my advice is that your markup should be high enough so that you can wholesale at 50% of your retail price and still clear a healthy profit. If you can't do that, you need to look at your production method to see if you can make it more efficient or you need to modify your product so you can do this. Most of the stores/galleries that sell my line(s) do so because I am able to sell to them at true wholesale rates. Telling them that you'll knock off 20% probably won't get you very far. Your results may vary.

Market Analysis -- Part 4 Competitive Analysis

Here's the hard part. Now that you've got a product and a price, you need to analyze the competition. You've got a lot of it. Jewelry is one of the most lucrative DIY hobbies and there are a lot of people who are just trying to sell enough to feed their hobby.

The competition you face will depend on where you're planning to sell. No matter what venue you choose, you will need a website of some sort. Some people use a site like Etsy as their primary website. That's fine if you're planning to stay a small, independent jewelry designer. It does make you vulnerable to changes in their policies -- for example offering an IPO and changing listing guidelines to please stockholders. sigh...

In most cases, you'll want a .com type of site to call your own. Even if you don't sell off that particular site, it is very beneficial to have your own site if you plan to approach galleries/stores to carry your line(s). It implies that you've made a genuine commitment to your business as opposed to the perceived view that you've got a hobby and sometimes list stuff here and there.

If you list on sites such as Etsy, eBay, or Amazon, you need to take a long hard look at your competition on those sites. One of the easiest ways to look at this data for eBay is 
goofbid.com. For Etsy, there's craftcount.com andhandmadeology.com. I'm sure there are other sites out there for this purpose. Sometimes it's just best to type in your idea of a search phrase for your type of jewelry and see what comes up.

In any case, it's helpful to have an appendix for collecting this type of data. You'll need to categorize your jewelry -- Earrings Type 1 (E1): sterling, single lampwork bead, beadcaps; Earrings Type 2 (E2): gemstone stud set in sterling, etc. Then, look at each of your intended markets and look for the number of them in a variety of price ranges. Note little things that jump out at you when you look. For example:

eBay E1: search phrase "sterling lampwork earrings" 1/18/15
Price <$5 -- #350 ---- all from China
$5-$9.99 -- #97 -- UK, Australia, mostly made with Chinese lampworked beads
etc...
$125 - $150 -- #2 -- well known lampwork bead makers

Obviously, this data will change over time. It's also comprehensive. If you're strapped for time, you can always just look at the pricing bracket around your product (see #3 Pricing above) instead of looking at all the prices at once. I print out a little form so I can just fill it in periodically and add it to the stack of data.

From this quick look, you'll note the obvious things like stay out of the price range of under $10. While you already knew that, having this in your notes will help save you when you are desperate to make a sale and decide to "make a few bucks" by selling some earrings on eBay. Even I get drawn into "get-rich-quick" ideas. My business plan saves me from myself at those times.

While you're looking at this eBay data, you'll become aware of the sellers with a lot of inventory in your prospective market. Run these seller's names through the goofbid site and see if they're really making money or not. Unfortunately, I did not see a similar site to look at the data from Etsy.

This is just plug and chug busy work. I tend to do stuff like this when I'm eating or cooking since my computer needs to spin to do the searches.

In any case, since you have previously designed your lines and chosen prices, now's the time to look at reality and see if you need to adjust your design to a different price point.

I know that this is a lot of data to collect. However, if you have a CPA, then you can hand this packet to him/her and ask for help. My CPA told me to trash one of my product lines even though it was selling quite well. The profit margin was significantly less than my other products and I was losing money without realizing it. Yup. That was my get-rich-quick scheme that I didn't bother adding to my Business Plan. Oops!!! Had I crunched the numbers before launching that line, I wouldn't have done it.

This is pretty much a case where you gather all the data and stare at it for a while. Eventually, you'll begin to see patterns and know which direction to go.

Here are a couple of sites I use to keep up with the changes on eBay and Etsy:

http://www.ecommercebytes.com/

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/

6: Organization and Management

The traditional approach to this section is to discuss how people are arranged and managed. Not too useful to me even though I'm a partnership company. Instead, I took Organization and Management to be the organization of my studio space to optimize production and time management.

Take a look at the steps you outlined in section 2 when describing how you make your jewelry. If you can re-organize your space to take fewer physical steps, here's where you should make those notes and implement those changes.

I also looked at time management at this point. How much time do I need to produce the work? How much time do I need to apply to shows? How much time do I need to contact retail outlets? How much time will I devote to preparing for shows, doing them, then unpacking? This is an ongoing issue for all artists. There are only so many hours in the day to work and still get things done like laundry and dishes. Keeping track of all of those business time commitments will help you establish prices for your work since you will actually know how much labor is involved.

2: Service or Product Line

Describe how your jewelry will benefit your intended customer. How is it different than your competitors? For example: Do you make jewelry for business women? Do you make jewelry that's likely to be picked up on vacation? Do you specialize in "occasion" jewelry?

Are you planning to take legal steps to protect your intellectual rights? That's something I don't do because I don't particularly care if someone copies me.

Go step-by-step through the procedures, supplies, and equipment you need to produce your jewelry. This is a great place to spawn yet another Appendix. I do a separate section for each type of jewelry I plan to produce. This is very helpful if you intend to expand your product line in the future. For example, if you are... unfocused as I am, you'll want to know what investment is needed to produce something else... like enameled metal pieces....

That leads us to the research and development part of your company. You'll need to budget resources to expand your product line in the future. If you keep doing the same thing for years, your sales will eventually dwindle to nothing. You need to keep abreast of trends and adapt your product line to keep up. How much time and money can you invest in your company to keep it moving forward.

Take a hard look at how jewelry is evolving and try to project where you will fit in the scheme 5-10 years in the future. Write it down. Re-evaluate it frequently.

4: Marketing and Sales

As as self-representing artist, you are the marketing and sales force. There's a limit to how much time you can devote to your business. Sadly, most of your time will be eaten by the marketing and sales part of the business.

It basically boils down to getting your product into locations where your customers can buy them. This part of the business will change even over the space of a few months. You will saturate markets with some product lines and will either need to adapt and change those lines or move to different markets.

With social media, it's now easier and less expensive to reach customers. Unfortunately, there's now a sea of jewelry designers out there competing with you. SRAJD has been very good about trying to keep it's members in the limelight. Thank you admins.
 

Usually, you'll need a combination of approaches to maximize sales. Online/social media, printed materials (business cards, fliers, catalogs,, etc.), advertising, blogspots, newsletters, publicity, promotions, shows, etc.

This is pretty much an area of trial and error. Sometimes, you just have to shake your head... power bracelets, bubble necklaces... What the heck??? Sometimes marketing and sales are just apparently random. This is when you put your nose in the statistics and try to make sense of it all.

Funding Request -- Probably not needed

5: Financial Projections

For the most part, financial projections are used for enticing investors. There are some aspects of financial projections that may be useful to you. It never hurts to see exactly where your company stands financially. One thing you will need for taxes is a balance sheet which shows your assets vs. liabilities.

Assets:
-- Cash and credit on accounts to other companies
-- Accounts receivable (money owed to you by customers)
-- Inventory and equipment owned by your company

Liabilities:
-- Accounts payable (people you owe money)
-- Taxes owed

Committing these numbers to paper will help you understand just how you're doing as a business. A surprising number of business fail to do this on a regular business. An accountant can help you out with this if you need help.

The inventory and equipment can be scheduled for depreciation (again, an accountant helps here).

Appendix -- As needed

Then the discussion continued, with me remarking on something from section 3 part 3 (Market Analysis, Pricing) where Katherine mentioned “Don't be tempted to look at similar designs and price around the same amount.”  I countered with, “I think almost everyone I know tries to price (at least at one point) based on similar items in the market.”

Katherine explained, “It's really tempting to try to do that but that method fails for several reasons. First, you don't know how your competitor sources their materials nor do you know how they price their merchandise. 

You need to independently price your items then look to see if they are marketable at that price. If they aren't then you can either decide that you're doing them anyway no matter what or you can alter your production source and methods or you can make something else. It's your decision at that point.”

I’m sure the discussion will continue. 

Katherine, I can’t thank you enough for being so thorough in helping us get started on this.  I hope to hear from some of the SRAJD members when they’ve drafted their business plans.  I’m getting started on mine today.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Announcing the Winner for the SRAJD November 2014 Jewelry Design Challenge

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in November 2014 SRAJD challenges. The results for the "Basic Designs" challenges can be seen here:

Organic Style
Elegant Style
Modern Style
Rustic Style


The administrative staff at SRAJD selected one overall winner for November. This person’s designs were chosen as best exemplifying the challenge themes.

Congratulations Barbara Swinton of Touch of Silver!


Here are Barbara’s submissions:    

Modern



Rustic

We thought it would be nice to get to know a little bit more about Barbara so I asked her some questions…

What prompts you to embrace the SRAJD jewelry-making challenges?

I'm a rather structured person, which has been useful over the years in simply getting things accomplished. However, when it comes to creating jewelry, structure is good only up to a point. It's awfully easy for me to be fairly repetitive when I approach my workbench - I can accomplish a lot, if I do what I always do. The jewelry challenges make me sit back and think about doing something different. It doesn't have to be with the idea of selling it, I find - just creating a piece that comes to life as a result of moving in a new direction, down an unexplored path. I'm really looking forward to the new year of challenges!

How did you learn your craft?

Back in 2005, we went 'mining' for garnets on one of our rest days from Adirondack hiking. After we collected our stash, we noticed a mineral store which at the time, I thought must always be associated with places like this. And amazingly, there they were, all these beautiful minerals - hanging on strands of thread no less! Yikes, they were gorgeous. So I bought a couple of strands of beads as a memory of our visit. Once home, I had no idea how to make these beads stay around my wrist and I sought out the local bead store to take a basis beading class. From there the passion just grew. I've taken many classes over the years, including bead crochet, PMC, chainmaille, glass fusing, lampwork beads, and most recently 2 courses in working with metal sheet and wire. In addition, books, "how to" videos and of course You Tube have all provided learning opportunities which I have indulged myself in, time and time again.

What themes do you pursue?

The theme that comes through most often in my creations is the color influence of the southwest. We began our Albuquerque visits 7 years ago, and oh, the silver and turquoise and lapis and coral, and sandy desert tones and colorful cactus flowers! All those colors provide a pleasing palette of inspiration for me when doing beaded jewelry. Earthy colors are next in line. The variety of jaspers alone is mind boggling. I definitely have studio supply overload in the bead category! On the other hand, working with sheet metal is really appealing to my structured nature; all those geometric shapes are calling my name.

Did you always want to be a jewelry artist?

Jewelry didn't enter my life until 10 years ago, but prior to that time there were many creative outlets that drew my attention. I guess I was trying to find myself creatively, though at the time, my pursuits weren't categorized in that way. In the 70's it was quilting, which actually spanned a few decades - all children had quilts at home, when they went off to college, wedding quilts, baby quilts, wall hangings etc. Then I discovered weaving on a floor loom (which I still have as a conversation piece), stained glass - windows, cabinet doors and the like; then onto painting - that was a rough one, as those paint brushes weren't very good listeners, though I know I will return to that effort someday! And finally jewelry - I've been very lucky to live in an area that can provide many classes for creative experimentation.

What do you think is the most interesting thing about your creative expression?

Because I have pursued a variety of outlets for expressing myself creatively, it's been interesting to note the two common threads captured in many of these activities. First, there's the tactile experience - the smooth material of a quilt broken by the lines of hand stitching, the textured fibers of wool and cotton as you weave your shuttle back and forth, the coolness of the stained glass as you carefully fit your design pieces together. And then there's shape - very similar visual stimuli from the angles of quilt pieces, stained glass and geometric forms used in metal work creations. Fun to notice these similarities! 


What are the biggest challenges that you face as a self-representing jewelry artist?

I think we all share some very common challenges when representing our own work. Although we concentrate our primary effort on growing our artistic expertise, in order to see success from that, we must be the mini-master of many tasks. If selling online, there are so many more learning curves that confront us - photography, SEO, bookkeeping, shipping, taxes - no weak links allowed in that chain:) When all you'd really like to do is create, it's a great challenge to have to excel in all these additional tasks. I just ended a relationship selling at a brick and mortar boutique due to time constraints, but when following that path, you have to be a salesman. Eeewww! For me, that was not a natural trait. Selling yourself and your creations directly, opens up your vulnerable side and yes, that was a difficult hurdle to overcome. However, with sales success, it was much easier to be a salesperson and talk about the creative process with anyone who would listen.

What role does the artist have in society?

Artists have had great influence both individually and as a group on the social society. I've always been enamored of the French Impressionists from the late 19th century. Their sketch-like capture of life in that era was an enormous change in style - not appreciated or accepted at the time. I think the role of artists over the years has been to evoke thought, hopefully emotion and sometimes change, no matter what the field - music, painting, dance or jewelry artists. In all of these fields, creativity often occurs as a solitary activity, but I think artists, as a segment of society, share the hope that what we create will elicit a reaction of one sort or another; we want to strike a nerve!

How has your art changed over time?

When I first discovered those minerals on a string, every piece I made consisted of 4 mm beads....for years! But as time went on, I found there was just so much more in size and shape and texture that needed exploring. It's satisfying creating my own earwires, clasps and other findings which give my pieces a more personal touch. Moving beyond beads, using metal rings for chainmaille gave new creations a more elegant look. Love the intricacy of weaving rings - it looks much harder than it is! There are so many different metal ring "looks" out there, from silver, copper and gold to niobium and aluminum - love them all. Now I'm getting into more creative opportunities using sheet metal. I feel there will always be something new just around the corner.

What does the future hold for you?

In the near future, I will be focusing on my copper, silver, and brass sheet metal sawing, filing, soldering, and texturing - would love to have a rolling mill. Continuing with my stone setting (I've done two so far) is also at the top of the list, as well as trying a few techniques with copper pipe that sound intriguing. My intention is to soon become the boss of my flex-shaft...none of this "poor listening" like I got from my paintbrushes! Practice, practice, practice. I would like to explore both heat and chemical patinas, and learn to etch and enamel. Those endeavors should keep me busy for a decade or so....


Barbara, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. It’s an immense pleasure seeing your work and getting to know you better!
See more of Barbara’s fabulous jewelry here:
http://www.touchofsilver.etsy.com












Thursday, January 15, 2015

SRAJD Week 1 Topic NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS



For 2015, we decided to take one jewelry-making topic per week (click here to see the list) and discuss it (in our Facebook Group) then share some of the highlights of the conversation here.

Week #1 was “New Year’s Resolutions and/or Goals for 2015”.

I (Laura Bracken of Bracken Designs Jewelry Studio) started the discussion by mentioning that I made a schedule, not unlike our SRAJD calendar of events, that will try to keep me "on task" so to speak. One of my goals for 2015 is to perfect my technical skills more, so rather than flitting from one jewelry making technique to another each day (and sometimes several times in a day), I will go in to "focus mode" for one week at a time.  I'm finding it immensely helpful to keep me streamlined and on target that I have begun to put all my scribbles, ideas, sketches, ramblings in one place, as opposed to the 40 different places they currently reside. It'll be epic.

Cyreathia VanPelt Reyer of ReyerWare Jewelry Designs stated: "My resolution for this year is to not rely solely on my shows for sales, but to do much better and spend an evening a week on uploading items to my online store. Also, to spend one day a week on the dreaded book keeping. I have been horrible this past year about keeping up with both of those.

Betony Lee Schniering Maiden of A Fair Maiden Jewelry added: “I don't do resolutions as I find I never follow thru. However I have decided to dive in and try new things this year. So far I'm playing with some wire and hammering. I also want to learn wire weaving.”

Nohline Sharp L'Ecuyer: “This year's resolution - note -only one - ORANIZATION! It covers so many areas of my life that are in disaray; my studios are a mess, I just keep dumping stuff in there and I want to set up invidiual work stations for each technique. Like a dedicated solder station, lampworking etc; inventory of parts and bits and bobs; what a mess, things are in bags with their receipts and nothing is logged into my computer system. It is going to take a while. Accounting - running 6 months behind - think I need to catch up cause tax season is here! Unfinished projects are everywhere. I need to corral the parts needed to finish them and get there! Marketing - thanks to SRAJD I am getting there very quickly and have built a new easy to update web page - needs a new logo/photos/tweaking, but it's basically done and includes a blog.”

Kelly Hosford Patterson of Pyxee Styx: I don't do resolutions. I do a word of the year to set the tone. 2013 was Glow (Let my torch glow, my kiln my talent glow). 2014 my word was Possibilities (I went full time artist). For 2015 my word is Direction. I've kind of been all over the place with the things I'm doing. My intention is to figure out what really works for me and my business and hone it. Someone else suggested to me that it sounds like travel is involved as well. I'm totally embracing that idea. I just bought this adorable little vintage compass at the flea market yesterday to wear around my neck as a reminder.

Laura… We talked about being overwhelmed by our tasks so I mentioned a technique I use to help prioritize when I’ve got too much on my plate.  This is not new nor is it my invention… lots of people use this… I’m just sharing it with my SRAJD buddies so they can see.

Katherine Gingrich of Gingrich’s Fiber and Metal Arts mentioned she follows a similar idea.  “I do the same thing. I label tasks A, B, C, or D depending on importance. It's amazing just how well that works.”

Amy Munn Parker of Rich Knob Sales: “Over the years I found that my 'to-do" list was timeless. It had the same unfinished projects every time. The only one that really got accomplished was that I finally quit smoking 5 years ago and agree it was the best thing I ever did for myself!  I have a pile of supplies that need to be used before I buy more, and I have a pile of unfinished projects that need to get off my workbench. I also have an abundance of food in my freezer that should be eaten. , and these are good problems.”

Amy brought up a good point as several of us mentioned we’ve often had the same “to do lists” year and year.  We didn’t analyze that, but I think it’s worth consideration for sure. 

We got on the subject of “lists” and specifically “list makers”.   I shared a link for “27 Signs You’re an Obsessive List Maker”.  While there’s humor there, I believe there’s it’s outweighed by the truth.  

I also shared NPR’s less humorous but just as helpful article on “10 Reasons Why We Love Making Lists”. 

Marica Zammit of Bead Lovelies: I don't call them resolutions I call them goals  Resolutions are the same ones I make *ahem* each and every year, so I call them goals to stand a better chance to see them through.  My goals for 2015 are to cut back on trying to learn each and every jewelry making technique on the planet. YouTube you know it's YOUR fault, not mine haha   In 2015, I'm going to focus. Focus is going to be my new mantra lol.  I plan on growing my artisan beads website and writing many articles on how to market your jewelry. And of course actually make more artisan beads. I also plan to open two other Etsy shops for my finished jewelry.  (This in addition to revamping my two other non-jewelry related online businesses - I've neglected them last year.) I think that should be more than enough to keep me busy lol”

Nohline brought up the topic of “time management”.  I think this is crucial to success.  Nohline mentioned that computer/social media can easily eat up a lot of our creativitiy/production time.  This is something I think so many of us struggle with.  We want to make jewelry, but it almost seems like we have to spend 90% of our work time marketing and managing or we end up invisible.

Meri Roo Blaty Garrett-Perez of Fire and Sand Studio: “This thread is really a fun read. I'm laughing, nodding my head in agreement, clicking links to articles, etc. And I now will be adding "limit time on FB" to my ever-growing list. As informative as this group is, I could spend all day reading and digesting all the information. So I need to set up a specific time and maybe only a specific day to be online and interact. Now that Facebook is on my phone, I instantly am alerted when people are posting, for me, that's distracting. It's a pleasant distraction but a distraction nonetheless.”

Amy Munn Parker solves this by having “the FB app so I can share pics to a couple of local pages I manage, but I turned off the notifications, especially the sounds, so that it does not interrupt me.”

Barbara Sadler Swinton of Touch of Silver: “What a chuckle I've had reading this!!! You gals are so funny and we sure have alot of similarities when it comes to our stash of stuff and how we treat it. As for New Year's resolutions, a common thread has woven itself through the last 7 years of jewelry making for me and it starts with become "proficient".... not expert, not even great...just get good at something for pity sakes, and then use the technique to create pieces you're proud of. So for me this year, it's metal work - soldering, texturing, filing, sanding, fold-forming, drilling, piercing - yup, that should do it for 2015...and don't buy any more beads until I use up the 1000's I have!!!”

Kelly Hosford Patterson also mentioned that she likes the online jewelry making challenges (in SRAJD and other groups) because they push her to try new things.

I think a lot of this would agree.

Linda Blatchford of LinorStore Jewerly: “Mine are also goals and this year I'm going to focus on Judaica and recreating jewelry and women's headcoverings that sell. I'm not going to buy supplies for any thing else, no new designs to try - I already have leather supplies for wrap bracelets I can't make - and I may destash gemstones and supplies I'm not using.
- Going to list more designs on my own website than Etsy and decide about changing over my blog to my website rather than blogspot.
- Figure out how to engage with clients on social media, newsletter and blog. The big challenge.”

Laura Harrison Bosch of MutliBeadia: “You all are great! I don't do resolutions, I think they set you up for failure. Goals, accomplishments yes to those. I make lists because they keep me focused & I'll forget otherwise. This year for me is about balance & being open to possibilities. (I sure did sound like the old hippy I am!) I want to have more balance betw work & everything else. It's so easy to work too much when working from home & all the beads are right here & they keep calling to me! oops better stop now!”

Since the subject was mentioned more than once, I asked what the difference was between resolutions and goals.

Here are some of the responses:
--  “Goals are a suggestion - resolutions are a mandate.”
-- “I've always thought of resolutions as a joke -like people says what their resolutions are with a wink & a nudge, like a Monty Python skit. nudge nudge wink wink”
-- “Reslolutions are things like, I'm gonna lose 50 lbs this year, and I'm gonna work out everyday, and give up smoking, caffeine, or sugar. They're always big ideas, but they're unrealistic and usually set up for failure. By choosing a word of the year it sets a much more subtle tone. A word like "Health" could encompass all those things, without the overwhelming pressure. Baby steps. Small changes have a better chance of becoming long term habits anyway.

So whether we have resolutions OR goals, it was fun sharing with other jewelry makers and I look forward to seeing how “on track” I stay with mine.