Below is my advice to a specific jeweler on how to position and sell her work. I think it will be helpful to others who are trying to sell their work, as they might be having similar challenges.
The CRAFT Magazine blog is one of my favorites, and recently they had a post about a jeweler who wrote on her blog about a terrible show experience. Another blogger posted a response to her post on her own blog!
And CRAFT reported on them both, you can read that here.
The author of the original post, and the one who had the awful show, is jeweler Margaux Lange, who makes these really cool pieces framing Barbie (R) body parts in silver and resin.
I rarely write a post in response to someone else’s blog, but I have something original to say that hasn’t been said (that I’ve noticed) in any of the many, many comments on the other two blogs.
Here’s Margaux’s original post.
So she had the kind of show where you feel like you’re in the zoo, people just walk by and look at you, or worse, they come in to your booth and make offensive comments. I’ve been there. My worst show ever I sold one polishing cloth.
She says maybe this wasn’t the right show for her, and while I don’t know the show, it certainly seems like that’s true.
One of my suggestions to her is to upgrade her booth just a bit. A back wall to her tent would help reduce distraction. The quality of her work and the quality of her booth do not match at the moment, and she needs to bring up the booth to match.
I love her use of the Barbie (R) couches as displays — very fun and it helps people make the connection to what the items are made out of. (But I agree with the people at the show that the Barbie (R) legs as displays are distracting.)
Raising the height of the tables, or not using tables at all, is a always a good idea. Putting some of her work in glass cases might help. Her work is expensive, yet it’s displayed as if it’s not. That could be part of the problem — expectations. You need to match people’s expectation of price with your display.
Her sign should be hanging from the back of the booth, not on the table. Her slogan on the sign, Unique Handcrafted Jewelry isn’t descriptive enough, lots of people use it. I would suggest she work on that, and come up with something that’s much more accurate and specific to her work, something that references the doll use.
And finally, Margaux talks in her post about her craftsmanship, how she makes everything except the chains herself, about how long it takes her to make each piece.
And there’s part of the problem. My suggestion to her is: look for ways to reduce your production time, ways to automate, improve efficiency.
She hand fabricates each setting for the doll parts. I would suggest that it can be hard to make money that way, and why not cast? It looks like she mostly makes jewelry using the ears and smiles of the dolls, and the dolls are pretty standarized, so it should work to make two or three settings and have them cast.
The placing of the doll part, adding any findings or a ring shank, and adding the epoxy resin would still be done individually to each piece.
There is a customer who appreciates hand fabrication, and perhaps she could go that way, and find those customers. The question is, is that customer the same customer as the one who appreciates fun, irreverent jewelry using doll body parts?
I think they are not the same person. (I could be wrong, but that’s my experience.) The customer who appreciates hand fabricated is, I think, older and has more money than the customer who has nostalgia for childhood toys and a strong sense of irreverence.
I think her customer is in her 20s or 30s and buys T-shirts at Threadless.
Knowing who your customer is, and making everything you do appropriate for that customer, is key to success. What’s the most important thing to her customer? Fine, hand craftsmanship, or great colors and a fun idea? I think the latter, and that for her customer, casting, and buying ear wires, are perfectly acceptable ways to reduce price.
If the goal is to make a living, the jewelry has to be designed from the start to be produced efficiently.
One of the greatest challenges in selling jewelry is standing out from the crowd, when there is so much competition. Lots of people make “pretty things,” and are not differentiated. Margaux has that covered! If she can communicate effectively what she’s doing, and produce efficiently she should do well.
I would also like to hear more about why she does this. I really like her work, and I’m also curious. Does she love Barbie (R) dolls? Does she hate them? Does she just think they look cool cut up and set in silver? Is she making a statement? About what?
People buy handcrafted jewelry in part of because they are buyinig a piece of the artist, a piece of their creativity. Knowing why she makes them, would only enhance the buying experience. And it could also make a great marketing angle, depending on the reason.