Thursday, April 26, 2012

Changing Directions in your Jewelry Making

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be spending my retirement making jewelry, and not playing golf...I would have told them that they were nuts. I'm the one who was wrong though - two years of shingles totally ended the golf game that was already waning in interest for me even though I was a single digit handicapper.  The jewelry appeared by chance.  I am probably the only artisan who got started because she needed to have cataract surgery.  After the healing, I needed to wear reading glasses, something I'd never done before.  I wanted some eye glass leashes and there were none that I liked - so I remembered a small bead store close by, figured "how tough can this be" and got there, bought some stones and tools and off  I  went.  Before I even got home the thought of what cute earrings I could make with my purchases were floating through my head.  I made my leashes and I made a few the way, if you're ever looking for eye glass leashes, I think I have cornered the market on them...somewhere around here, is a basket filled with about 75 leashes...I wish that I could learn to bring some moderation to my life.

I did have some motivation here - I had badly wanted to take a jewelry making course in college, but I was a chemistry major with a minor in math, and I could never fit the 2 prerequisite art classes in my hectic schedule filled with labs.  That whole thing sank way back in my mind as I went about my life.  Always did crafty things...was an avid knitter and was a fairly good tole painter. But those and all the other things that I dabbled in, never sucked up my life that way that jewelry has...I would do it 24/7 if I could.

I started out using good stones and precious metals.  During my first trip to Tucson for the Gem and Bead Extravagancia held there every year, I got seduced by the beauty and versatility of  Tibetan pendants and started incorporating them into my jewelry.  Did very well with those necklaces for a long time and then I walked into two of my best boutiques and there were necklaces that looked exactly like mine,  down to some of the same pendants, but they weren't mine.  I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but don't try  to sell them in the same store where you stole the idea...that approaches tacky!! !

At about this same time, the bottom fell out of the economy here...I sold absolutely nothing for almost 3 months and knew that I could continue the way I had been going,go broke, or I could try some new things.  I didn't have allot to invest, because I hadn't sold anything,  but this is where I discovered resin - colorful and there a better combination???? I also found annealed steel wire, which you can buy in the hardware store for next to nothing.  Unfortunately, I also discovered Swarovski crystals at this time - which are also colorful, but not cheap - but I loved the combination with the steel and the resin - they dress the resin up and they do incredible things for the steel wire.

To me, these are not just attractive pieces of jewelry but they are fun, colorful and unique.  The Swarovski makes all four of these special and different, they're combinations that aren't often seen.  The resin pieces have been selling like hot cakes and they have a great price point, people are buying and often buying more than one piece at a time.  The annealed steel does not have as good a track record, because most of my shop owners don't like it, so they don't carry it, but the one that does has sold a few pieces and I love the medium so much I will keep plugging away with it. Either way, these are vastly different from the tradition stone, or pearl and precious metal that I was doing.  I am using plated silver or gunmetal to finish these , so that also helps keep the costs down.

In my first jewelry life, I made beautiful, expensive jewelry and I did truly love what I made but,  I knew with the economic climate here that not only did I need to change what I made, I needed to lower my price point.  The boutiques that carry my jewelry are VERY high end, and they were having problems selling their clothing and jewelry wasn't moving at all.  These well to do women had the  real thing jewelry wise, and they weren't about to spend their dwindling allowances for  high priced bling.   I changed directions for a number of reasons, mostly because I wasn't selling and I was being copied, but also I needed to get the attention of these women again. I am really excited about where my journey has taken me.  I think that change is good for all of us and helps us to grow...I hate to admit it, but I usually fight any kind of change...but not this time and it has really paid off for me and my Artfire shop

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Free Shipping - Or the Costs of Jewelry Supplies Online

I deal with about five or six major suppliers in the jewelry industry all of them accessible online.  Therefore, everything that I buy needs to be shipped to me, and each company has a different shipping policy.

My main supplier charges a very reasonable flat fee for shipping and they used to have a small fee for preparing the order, although they have recently dropped that.  I pay for my own returns.  My second supplier charges for shipping and I am able to choose which shipper that I want and for returns they email a return label and pay 100% of the fee. Two other suppliers offer "free" shipping after a nominal purchase, $10.00 and $25.00, and the other two charge according to the weight of my purchase.

My favorite here is the first one with the flat fee of $5.00 for shipping no matter what it weighs.  The stores with "free shipping" are consistantly higher in price than my first choice. Shipping is a cost of doing business, and somehow, these places with "free" shipping have to pass this cost along to the consumer. So the $5.00 that I pay to my first choice, or the amount that I pay to the other businesses has to be spread out over their whole inventory to cover my "free" shipping.  Spreading it out over their whole inventory, means that everything that I purchase from them costs more than I am willing to pay...I am a very devoted comparison shopper, I remember numbers easily and I can usually figure this out in my head...if I can't and it's a staple that I use allot,but don't purchase often, I make a little chart to figure out who has the best deal.  Rarely do the free shippers win.  

Recently I needed simple sterling studs for one of my shops, and that chart got a little hairy.  They came in packages of five to fifty, some had ear nuts, some didn't.  I looked at 4,4.5,5, and 6 I had a real mishmash here, but a trusty  chart got it pretty straight in my mind.  Ended up at the $5.00 shipper who had 4.5 mm with their own earnuts...the cheaper pair was at another site, but I had to buy 50 pairs, and even though they were much cheaper per pair...I didn't want to spend the amount of money that I needed to take advantage of their deal...I would also have had to buy earnuts, upping my capital expense.

While we are here - I'm gonna talk about one thing that really drives me crazy when I am shopping on line. You know how these companies say "buy 1 to 5" and your widget costs so much, but buy "6 to 50" and your widget costs so much less, likewise,  buy 51 plus and you'll save an enormous amount of money. Allot of companies use this ploy in place of wholesale prices.  Give me wholesale every time, please. Next time this happens to you - take the highest price and multiply it by 50...then take the lowest price and do the same. I think that in, at least, 90% of the cases, you will be amazed at how little you can save. I don't know about you, but for me, in this awful economy, I want as little of my precious earnings tied up in inventory as I can manage and still run my business. I am at the point that I do not shop at a business that will not extend wholesale pricing to me except for Rio, and I buy very little from them.

So remember not to get sucked in with a promise of free's not free, it's just collected differently, unless you've gotten really lucky and found a seller who is not interested in his/her bottom line, somewhere, somehow, that shipping fee is being charged and collected.  I much prefer to have it upfront, out in the it is easier for me to do my comparison shopping. Come visit my shop and see where I've been spending my bead money...til next time...