Creating a Website and Social Media 101


Blue Opal & Mother of Pearl necklaces by Pam Older Designs
Blue Opal & Mother of Pearl necklaces by Pam Older Designs

Need a website and want t get started marketing your jewelry? Building a website and developing a strong online presence takes time, patience and a budget. Here are the basics so you can begin to formulate what you can do yourself and what you will need to outsource or delegate to a team member. First of all you will need to register a domain name and sign up with a web host – a company that has many computers connected to the Internet. Once you develop your website, your web pages will be hosted on their computers so everyone in the world will be able to view your site. In essence it is your site’s home and you pay an annual fee to live there. The purpose and complexity of your website will determine the cost to build one. If you want to provide full e-commerce capabilities you will need to invest in a website that will support all that is needed for that type of site. Before you seek a designer/developer, look at lots of websites to see what other companies and artisans in your field are doing stylistically. Make a list of sites with features you like and communicate those to the graphic designer and/or web developer that you will choose. You need to be part of the process or you will end up spending more money redoing your site. After your research, you should begin the process of interviewing graphic designers and/or web developers so that you can see their portfolio of work and what other services they offer. You might want to use a designer for the appearance and a web developer for the technical implementation, or you may find a web developer with designers on staff. Through the interview process you will begin to understand what is possible in terms of design, features, expertise and the cost of your project. Look for designers that can incorporate great design with animation, video and simple navigation. It’s always a good idea to provide an incentive to the buyer on your home page or through out your site; perhaps a coupon offering 10% off for first time buyers, or a message like “sign up for our emails and receive 20% off your first pair of earrings”. Buyers expect and respond to promotional offers, so let the designer know about these needs upfront as well. Once you have chosen a designer, find the best web platform-to build your site upon. The days are gone where someone has to build a website from scratch. Today’s web platforms are really E-Commerce Content Management Systems (CMS) that come with hundreds of sophisticated features, many that you will use. Read the rest of my article – The Basics of Website Creation and Social Media- click here!

Feel free to ask me any questions. If I don’t know the answers I can get you in touch with someone who does!

Visiting my Indian Sister in Jaipur


stone cutters in Jaipur India

The Stone Cutting Factory

Last February,  I went to Northern India and Nepal and stopped in Jaipur to visit my friends Nidhi and Ranjan at their home and stone cutting factory. Nidhi and I connected right away in person as we had  gotten to know each other through our extensive email correspondence over the years. We had gone through a divorce (mine) and a death of  a loved one (hers) and she was my Indian Sister as soon as we hugged each other at the airport.  They met me with roses and gifts and I was overjoyed to finally be meeting her and Ranjan. Later I met their two children and his parents and was shown how their 8 year old son could preform complex mathematics using an abacus. Two feasts were prepared in my honor. The second could not be served because I was still so full from the first one and from the mid morning samosas & chai, one of the culinary highlights of my life.  I was so sorry, they had gone to such extreme measures to prepare, but I could not possibly eat another bite! After our meal, more gifts were bestowed- a lovely book on India and a traditional painting adorned with stones.

After our meal Ranjan and his number two man brought in satchel upon satchel of beads for me to look at and buy for my handmade jewelry business. They had called in their local bead contacts who sent in valise after valise of bead strands for me to inspect and buy. I bought rubies, chalcedony, apatite, citrine, and my favorite- tanzanite.  One of my new handcrafted hoop earring designs for the Sundance Catalog features these stones- take a look http://www.sundancecatalog.com/product/code/56585.do!

After the buying was done, I met the men that cut the premium calipered semiprecious stones that I order for my creations! The crew was so kind – they came in on a holiday to meet me and to show me the sorting, cutting and polishing process that goes into their work. Here is a picture of the small room where they work the top floor of a residential building (Ranjan and Nidhi live below on two floors and renters below that). The center core of the building is open to the sky and on that day we got a wet.  Outside were cows and camels and a man taking a bath in a bucket. This is still Jaipur in 2012.  Go to http://www.pamolderdesigns.com/lemon-filagree-drops/  for an example of the beautiful lemon quartz briolettes they made for us.


Selling Your Handmade Jewelry, Part Three


Brass Parrot Necklace
Brass Parrot Necklace

The most effective way to sell my jewelry has always been a face to face visit to a store.  Even once a customer is established, most still want to see your newer items in person.

I started using an online line sheet program recently. It has helped me provide  a “catalog” to my wholesale customers instantly. I input a jpeg image for every item I want to promote as well as a product description and price information. When I am done it generates a web link so my customers can view pam older designs collections online.  The program displays all the items and zooms in on the product when a mouse is passed over it.  It makes for a very neat organized presentation of my handmade jewelry. It has only been a month but a few people have ordered from it and it is a very good lead generator.  I send it to catalog buyers too and the feedback has been very good.  It also functions as an internal database of my jewelry for my company. My assistants and I use it internally for identifying styles, tagging merchandise and filling orders.

For retail sales I usually point people to my website by providing links in emails, Linked In, Facebook and other social media applications to drive traffic.  I am going to explore Google Ads Words and Facebook ads in the near future. If anyone has any ideas or great store or catalog contacts- please let me know! Free jewelry will be yours for any new customers that place orders!!

Do You Have What it Takes To Have A Handmade Jewelry Business? Part Two


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If you think you are a great designer and others do too, then you have what it takes to design handmade jewelry. But be prepared to spend more time than you can imagine endlessly photographing, retouching, organizing stock, repairing, filling orders and most importantly, selling and marketing your handmade jewelry. If you can afford it hire a rep or people to help you do it!  Keeping up with all social media is a job all its own. Selling door to door still the most productive way for me to make a sale but requires lots of time and stamina, attention to detail and heavy lifting.  Charity events are also important but not all are created equal.  Some are juried and all of them require advance registration- sometimes a year ahead!  Trade shows are also very productive but only experience and lots of spending, (they can cost $4,000-10,000 a show if done within your region, more if you have to go far away) can tell you which ones are right for your business.  This is only a partial list of activities that go along with the territory if you are serious about establishing yourself in the handmade jewelry design world.

As I mentioned earlier, I spend hours each week posting to my blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and being part of online discussion groups. Now there is Pinterest to attend to as well. Today I added a new activity to the list- Brandboom- a new line sheet program that will generate online PDF line sheets (a simple catalog)  for my wholesale customers. I also update my website whenever I have a new group of creations to sell. Since you are always creating new things this means work never ends.

Then there are the old fashioned routines, calling and emailing my customers to tell them what is new in the line and setting up sales appointments.  I have a total of about 3,500 people to keep in touch with!

To attract new customers plan on doing trade and craft shows to sell to stores and retail and to tell the world you  have jewelry they simply must know about!  If you don’t do well at  first not to worry- people wait to see if you come back- then they will too! I have so many customers that tell me they saw or heard about me years ago. Did I tell you focussing might become a problem? Oh boy- I think I need to hire some more people!!

More to come!

Setting Up a Handmade Jewelry Business- Part One


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Setting up a handmade jewelry business involves some things you might not even consider, in fact you may be surprised to find yourself spending most of your time in activities somewhat unrelated to making handmade earrings and necklaces! I think this post may be one of many delving into this topic.

Without question you will be spending time selling your wares. If you are going to be successful, it means selling a lot and keeping your costs under control. Resisting all those gorgeous stones and materials is difficult for us at Pam Older Designs, and it will be for you too, but of course an artists needs materials to create. However, selling is key and you must be creative about how and where you sell to maximize your efforts and diligent about selling all the time.  If you are just starting out you will probably start selling to your friends, local shops and exhibiting at  local crafts shows. Try to find venues where you do not have to pay too much to make those sales.  As your business grows, pay attention to trade shows that cater to galleries, museum gift stores and boutiques.  In the New York area, January means shows where buyers are already buying for Spring.  Christmas jewelry buyers start in August!  Preparation for these shows like the Buyers Market of American Craft or the New York Gift Show start just as your Christmas and Spring peak selling times end.

The single most important thing you need is a camera, proficiency in taking good clear pictures and the ability to retouch images. These are advantages you cannot underestimate. You will need to save images for print, email, your website and promotional opportunities. Eventually you may have a catalog or line sheets. Start photographing- or have someone do it for you to save time.  You will need a library of shots saved at hi resolution for print and low resolution for the web.  Marketing never stops? I have spent more time taking pictures and photo re-touching than I would ever have imagined.  Good photography is an absolute necessity and the sooner you have it the easier it will be for you to get the word out about your business!

What to buy on my website? Try this gorgeous necklace that will add bling to anything you wear!

The Handcrafted Jewelry Design Process


Pam Older Designs custom Diamond and Yellow Gold Bangle Bracelet

After 15 years of making jewelry, I’m still obsessed with creating new designs everyday. I still love the process of design whether it is a room or a building, a sculpture or a graphic but particularly when it involves my jewelry. The question that is asked of me all the time is “Where do you get your inspiration?” I think the answers to this question are fairly universal but I will share my personal experience.

Let’s start with the basics, I am inspired by old or new materials like silver, unusual chains and charms and gemstones. Materials are to me like an artist’s paints. The play of color is probably the most obvious beginning of creation, so how the colored stones look next to each other is usually the starting point for me. I also look at the textures, shapes and metals along side the stones to enhance the colors or the design. For instance I love Labradorite and I think it usually looks best with silver, but sometimes a slice of gold next to Labradorite looks amazing! I came across some pale pink stick keshi pearls recently and paired it with silver faceted nuggets and a bright sterling chain and together the random pearls became a gorgeous confection.

Being a practical sort, there are other inspirations of a more personal nature. A new outfit that I need to accessorize gets me playing with materials and styles. A look or fashion trend will find me experimenting and improving a good idea. A person on the street wearing a fun piece of jewelry gets me thinking. All of these factors fall in the inspiration category.

Very very often, the inspiration for a new design comes from a customer. I can easily latch on to a good idea and run with it. The the design challenge is to surpass the original idea, making it even more beautiful and exceeding the customer’s expectations. Experience is why people come to a designer. The bracelet on the top of this article was an antique diamond broach that a customer brought to me for ideas. The design inspiration for this piece came quickly. I proposed keeping the setting in tact, making is horizontal and marrying it to a yellow gold bangle.  Both the customer and I loved the idea of combining the platinum setting with yellow gold, but many people might have opted for a white gold band. Either way, it was a great re-purposing of the ring. Now the piece is out of the safe and worn often.

 

Creating for myself has always proved a good litmus test. If I like it others usually do too. I usually wear a new design for a couple of days to see how it looks, how it moves, lays, and feels. Is it comfortable? Is it versatile -I love it more if you can wear more then one way. Does it look better in gold or silver? Should the finish be shiny, matte, or oxidized? Would many customer wears this and pay the price for it? What if I changed the stone? These are all common considerations in the design process, probably as true in jewelry making or as in any art form.The process is not simply a matter of an inspiration but rather many inspirations, artistic preferences, practical considerations and experience. And most importantly, the love of beautiful objects.

Setting up a New Shop


From start to finish, setting up my handmade jewelry shop in Newburyport last May was a project I did by the seat of my pants. Probably not uncommon for small businesses. I thought it might be helpful for you to have a list of things to do if you have plans for a new shop! So here is my list based on last year’s experience.

The Basics

After construction, which included a new floor, new moldings, built in shelving, lots of track and pendant lighting, a new doorway and barn door, it was time to move in. When in this phase be practical- think about how you are going to use your space. No one could picture how I was going to fit a bed in a 200 sq foot shop- but I had a vision and it was important to work it into the layout. I installed vinyl flooring that no one can tell isn’t real wood,will withstand traffic and is easy to clean.

Provide heat and air conditioning systems that are adjustable in the shop, workable windows, energy efficient glass and doors, a screen door, locks on all doors and an employee bathroom.Install fire and carbon dioxide detectors and the necessary fire alarms and fire key boxes required by your town. Install phones and internet service.

Things to do:

-Officially register your business in town.

-FIRST THING: Research ADA access and requirements for store access, aisle size and check out.

-Install a security system for windows and doors and a camera to prevent theft. I use a Nest camera and find it to work quite well.

-Find your employees and start training them and have them help with the myriad of tasks that are going to overwhelm you!

-Find a good handyman and computer support person to help you keep up with your opening schedule.

– Develop your signage/branding. Use you logo and choose strong images to brand your shop. Make sure you love it your image to prevent extra spending later. Employ a graphic designer whose work you admire to save your time and money in the long run.Do this at least four months ahead of time so ordering can be done 12 weeks for the following items: shop signs, gift certificates and envelopes, boxes,bags, gift wrap, ribbons, tissue paper, price labels, business cards, mailing labels, a flyer and promotional signs for the store telling shoppers what makes you special. A-frame “sandwich boards” for your sidewalk and flags will attract foot traffic. Have the designer make an email signature that includes a logo and perhaps a few thumbnail images to go at the bottom of every email you send out.

-Research and ask other store owners about point of purchase registers and merchant services accounts (credit cards). Find one you want to use for your sales transactions and inventory. We use Square on an apple ipad at Pam Older Designs and it works for us, but a larger store may need more bells and whistles. A chip reader,card scanner and receipt printer are part of this system and it is easy to set up and use. I also use quickbooks for my wholesale  and pamolderdesigns.com orders.

-Create a check-out area with the largest cash wrap counter that will fit your space (note ADA requirements for length and height). Stock it with bags and boxes, wrapping material, labels, polishing clothes, post-it notes, scissors, box opener, calculator, marking pens, keys, cleaning supplies like glass cleaner and a shelf for orders being held for pick up. Build a separate station for check-out if your space allows. Mine cash wrap has plenty of glass display area as well.A separate register stand will provide more storage and use less of your cash wrap counter space. If you have room add a table or counter space behind your main cash wrap.

-Buy store fixtures and displays for your jewelry and other items, and shelving, cabinets, hooks, tables, baskets.

-Take hundreds of pictures of your shop and your products. You will need them for future social networks and advertising.

-Buy a nice email sign up book and put it on the counter. Collect those emails! We also have a wish list book and a gift certificate book for tracking customer’s needs.

-Learn to be proficient in Mail Chip or Constant Contact so you can reach your customers with important sales information. Develop your social media pages and blogs. It takes a long time to develop, if you are not proficient hire a marketing savvy person to do this part time.

-Install awnings,window boxes and plantings. Have a broom and hose near by. Hire a service for planting if you can not do it yourself.

-Hire a cleaning service if you cannot do it yourself

-Hire a bookkeeper and/or account depending on your needs.

-Subscribe to Pandora or Spotify and find a nice little sound system.

-Move into your space and display your wares. Post shop hours and have an open/closed sign for the window and open your doors! Add your personal touches.

-Join the local Chamber of Commerce to keep abreast of business in town on many levels including promotional offerings and hiring services they sometimes provide as part of being a member. Connect with local merchants. Keep holidays and special town events in mind for store scheduling and staffing.

Any additional comments? Would love to hear from you. I am sure I have left out many but I will update this as time goes on. Hope it was helpful.

 

Drusy,Druse,or Druzy Gifts for Mother’s Day!


druzy diamonds earrings_Sapphire_drusy__50024.1458681983.1280.1280

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drusy, druse, or druzy  –  they all mean tiny quartz crystals that form within or on the surface of other stones.Druse is found all over the earth, the most common being quartzdruse within voids of agates. Garnet, calcite and dolomite .necklace_crysoprase_drusy__19008.1457561870.1280.1280necklace_long Green drusy

When ground water carrying dissolved silica is forced into a porous area of the rock rapid cooling can occur, causing the formation of tiny crystals on the surfaces or in cavities. The clear crystals often form on top of previously deposited minerals forming an uneven beautiful organic surface. Drusy is left natural or dyed to take on many shades.Druse jewelry has become very popular in handmade jewelry designs and my customers love it’s glittery, organic look and feel.

I use drusy to make original one of a kind necklaces, bracelets and earrings. In my Newburyport jewelry shop I have many more styles than I can possibly show online, but on this page are a few of the most popular earrings and necklaces. Perfect for Mother’s Day.

Beautiful Thai Silver


 

bracelet_pearl_signature_detailI love using Thai silver beads and pendants, one of the first materials I experimented with when I started Pam Older Designs  . The Hill Tribes of Thailand consist of about 20 different tribes, including the Karen, the Hmong, and the Yao. The villages have a history of making their living through the opium trade. In recent years the Thailand government has helped them to develop their silversmithing skills to give them a new direction and a better life.

Entire families are involved with bead production. I visited some villager huts and saw the process firsthand. (Although some village men prefer offering you a “hard” drink rather than show you how the beads are made!). 

My friend and I visited one such hut that was also producing handmade primitive flutes and so we drank and danced. We found you could not  buy a variety of beads from a single family. Each home specializes in certain designs and they function through a bead collective through which they sell their wares. Many of their designs, especially their focal pendant charms come from the natural world, like flowers,dragonflies and shells. We ended up buying most of our silver from a bead dealer in Chiang Mai.

Thai silver contains 99.9% pure silver on average, but it can range from 92.5-99.9.  In that range it is considered fine silver which is softer than Sterling. To claim an item is Sterling it is required to contain 92.5% ore that is usually mixed with 7.5% copper to make it stronger.For this reason you will see sterling silver pieces imprinted with “925”. Unlike Sterling silver which can be dipped, polished on a polishing wheel or using silver polish, fine silver is more difficult to clean. The small oxidized silver beads made by the Hill Tribes, must be cleaned very gently using an anti-tarnish cloth. I use a Sunshine Cloth. I rub the strung beads very gently over and over until the non-recessed areas are restored to a gentle gleam. Be patient it takes a long time. You can also try a little lime juice but I think the cloth works the best. test the lime juice on a small area first. Other methods tend to remove the dark oxidation that gives Thai silver its rustic, handmade look. Never have it professionally polished to a high gleam- it will lose all its character. As with all jewelry, we recommend keeping it in an airtight plastic bag to keep it from tarnishing.

 

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Green Garnet Double Strand Bracelet by Pam Older Designs, Newburyport, MA

 

 

Looking Forward to 2016


Happy New Year everyone. I thought I would post three of my favorite jewelry designs from 2015. I started working on new ideas for 2016 today.Delicate things are coming back in a big way, and studs for younger women. I am bringing back an original design- my ABC hoop– haven’t had this classic earring in a while- it will look a little different! Should be ready with a new supply in a few weeks.

See you online at pamolderdesigns.com or at my new shop at 42 Merrimac Street-looking forward to a great 2016!Pam_Older_BC1

 

Pam Older Designs Opens Shop in Downtown Newburyport!


My  new shop Pam Older Designs is finally OPEN! It has been a long cold snowy winter but we did it!
Here are some fun before and after shots of the store. Hope you will drop by and see our wares! Selling my favorite handcrafted jewelry pieces plus wonderful bedding and things I just think are fun and pretty!

A paint job and some tender loving care.
In dire need of a paint job and some tender loving care.
Blue paint and flower boxes & clean windows!
Blue paint and flower boxes & clean windows!
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Before we moved the door and built the display shelves.
This used to be a sub shop!
This used to be a sub shop!

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Raw space- so glad I kept the brick natural, it looks so much better now with the light gray trim.
Raw space- so glad I kept the brick natural, it looks so much better now with the light gray trim.

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Shop- Opening Day Image
The store is stocked and ready for business!

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Inspiration Knocks….Again!


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A sampling of pillows and bedding from Roberta Roller Rabbit

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Since my jewelry beginnings, I’ve handcrafted earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets that aren’t meant to be very serious.It’s classic design with a modern twist – feminine and unpretentious. With my friends and family’s support I have grown so much through my journey as a designer and entrepreneur.

Designs ideas come to me very spontaneously,I am inspired by paintings, photos of years past, the colors of semiprecious stones and most often what a customer is envisioning. A customer’s thoughts along with my creative touch always results in a new design idea. My best designs ideas are derived from my customers wishes. My personal style is free-spirited and casual, made up of things I consider beautiful- whether it’s a brown and white rough crystal quartz druzy or an antique rose cut diamond. Which leads me to my next creative project….

In May 2015 Pam Older Designs very first boutique will open its doors in Newburyport, MA. There will be some quirky surprises for sure as I bring my personal aesthetic to home decor as well. Roberta Roller Rabbit bedding for starters, fresh and colorful for the Summer season! Complimenting my jewelry will be some other surprises. It will be a process as I test the waters and see what Newburyport likes! I want to make the shop a personal experience, modern, fun and like my jewelry never too precious.

Pearls for Girls- Perfect for Valentine’s Day!


Girls With Pearl Earrings