Jewelry designing is not for someone who finds decision making daunting! My assistants would say that disqualifies me immediately! The truth is I am a pretty good decision maker after years of experience except when faced with a thousand different gemstones, colors, cuts and other materials! Now add all the possible charms like the special one I use on my Buddha Necklace, our popular Breathe Deeply, our Lucky Elephant, Om and Lotus...That’s the dilemma, but also the fun of it.
So how does one chose? Obviously the prettiest combination and the trending styles make influence your choice, but I just ask myself-would I like to wear that right now?
A new piece starts with a simple design, an experimental color combination, and a choice of metals. Then the fun begins, much to the chagrin of my assistants. I usually like to see it in a few variations. At the end of this process there may be a number of new designs and maybe a coordinating collection of bracelets, earrings or necklaces.
But the process of deciding does not end here. I consider pricing- can I make something most people can afford? Do I have the materials in stock? Should I add diamonds? How long does it take to make? All of these considerations go into the mix.
Then I try it on- uh oh..can we change this to silver and make it longer? What if we….I can drive my assistants crazy.
In the end, my collection of handmade jewelry is affordable, pretty and well made. The final result is well considered. If the design is good my customers are going to like it.
I 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.
American Craft Week will run through October 12, 2014. All across the country, those of us that make and sell our unique handmade jewelry, metal work, pottery, woodwork and other crafts invite you into our studios and to festivals to see our work firsthand. American Made is important to keep our strong history and tradition of crafts alive. Please support this week of events by sharing this with others.
These are going to be pretty for the holidays- although I am using them now. So far the response is great and the idea to put them on little easels is a great one from Justine at the Bruce Museum who is a pro at merchandising.
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!
Very important aspects of the wholesale/retail jewelry process that many artisans may not focus on are presentation, branding and packaging. When you are starting out or have been in business for years,a new logo or package design will call attention to your brand. How many times have you gone to a craft show where the artist gives you their work in a plastic or paper bag? As unbelievable as this seems, it’s happened to me on more than one occasion.
A well designed logo is the basis for your brand identity. It should be printed on your business cards, order sheets, gift boxes, jewelry display cards and labels, shipping boxes and packing slips, and your artist cards. These small touches will provide an organized look for your beautiful handmade jewelry and spread brand awareness. Get the design right the first time and you will save yourself time and effort by being able to print all these components up front. If you are new- trust me, they are all necessary. If you use Quickbooks you can even upload your digital logo so that your invoices, statements and emails generated by the system will include your logo. Needless to say you want it displayed on your website and included in advertising as well. This is an inexpensive way to tell the world about your existence!
Your personal emails should also include (in your signature) a logo or tag line and perhaps a miniature picture of your work. Follow through on your banners and signage that you use for retail and trade shows.
Although there are many resources my gift boxes and pouches are produced at Packaging Specialties in Newburyport, MA. I love their service, quality, product design and print capabilities as well as the low minimum requirements for ordering. My new boxes have a two line version of my logo (I have two versions for spatial design problems that arise), a silver foil box and a magenta metallic imprint. It’s a simple design but is looks “SPECIAL”. I am sure someone that gets a gift that includes my jewelry, a pretty artist card telling them about the jewelry designer and the box tied up in a silver bow will remember Pam Older Designs and return to buy more! For many years I had ordinary packaging- an uncoated box with a label affixed to it. It was fine for someone just starting out, but it was ordinary and not professional and certainly did not convey “SPECIAL”. Recently I got a package from India in an uncoated kraft box with leaf pattern printed on the top. It was all wrapped with hemp and a little wooden elephant charm. It was memorable, but there was no logo and no personalized packing slip- I have no idea what company sent it! This company took the time to come up with an adorable package but missed the opportunity to sell to me again.
Neatness counts- buy plastic bags of all sizes to protect your jewelry when shipping out orders to your wholesale accounts and always include artist cards for the galleries and boutiques that want them. Try not to reuse old boxes, even your wholesale packages should be SPECIAL and to convey quality.
What have you done to spruce up your packaging and to spread brand awareness? I would love to hear from you!
Getting ready for a trade show can be daunting, especially for the first time jewelry designer exhibitor. My company, Pam Older Designs was at the August 2011 New York International Gift Show at the Javits Center so I have some recent experiences and advice on how to do a major trade show. I started out doing a few smaller regional shows before hitting NY. It gave me an invaluable introduction to the process. My booth design has evolved and improved over time and yours will too.
I hope this makes it easier for you to set up your handmade jewelry booth.
It’s all about your product. If you have a good product priced competitively you will sell! Sometimes it takes a few shows for people to start to really recognize what you have. Other times you could be a hit right away, don’t get discourged, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Develop a color story for your products a couple of months prior to your show and make your samples. I find that seasonal collections are essential for jewelry and apparel, but sometimes you have customers from different climates, so don’t omit your prettiest styles just because they are not in season. A month ahead of the show, get all your samples labeled with wholesale prices and style numbers. Put them all in plastic bags to bring to the show and resist the urge to start taking them out! For me this is the most time consuming part- once I get it the jewelry packed I feel I am ready to deal with the rest of the many details, but at least the design and manufacturing is complete.
Start sending promotional emails to your customers telling them your show and booth location many months prior to the show! Closer to show time you should offer an incentive for them to come see you. Perhaps a few show specials or a discount for an order over a set amount. Of course you should be using Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic all through the year. This year I id a video for FB showing us setting up the booth- from unpacking and setting up to the final booth ready and open for business.
Arrange for extra help to help you set up the day before the show and someone to help man the booth during the show. It’s hard work, don’t think you are lazy! Two people for a small booth is not overkill. Just don’t crowd your customers. Pre-register online and eliminate the time spent on getting badges the day of the show. Usually you will also need to get a badge for your set up crew if you have movers.
Design your booth and lay it out to scale in your garage or living room so you can see if it is going to work in your booth space. Stick to a style and color scheme , consider light weight and folding shelving, pedestals and tables. You will regret heavy items or things that are not compact, especially if you are planning to pack and move it along with your merchandise and displays. Walk the show before your actually exhibit there to get ideas of how you would like your space to look. Pay attention to the various sections – for instance the NY Gift Show has Personal Accessories, Handmade, NY’s Newest and other sections where you might be placed- or that you can choose from.
Lighting jewelry is vastly important – so figure that aspect out ahead of time. I always have a track light for my booth plus additional lighting to shine on all the surfaces. Pay for additional lighting or wattage if you think you will exceed the minimum feed. This time I signed up for electricity and brought my designer lamps. I found I did not need to buy any additional track lighting due to the convention center’s placement of overhead lighting. I was lucky, it doesn’t usually work out so well, but from now on I will wait until I see the actual booth space and the light. You may be able to save 100.00-200.00 if you do not need to order additional lighting. Most shows do not provide light- so make sure you check out the details. Lighting is paramount.
I display my earrings on upright racks to save space, and highlight my best pieces on necklace busts, T stands, and bracelet stands. Risers can double your space! Mirrors or natural stones look great as a backdrop for tabletop displays as well. I pin some of my pieces on padded canvases that I put in pretty silver frames and hang them for hooks secured on the booth frames for interest. They work especially well for long necklaces. Look for unusual display ideas – a good place to find the is at discount stores or online. Get your signage ready- you are going to need a vibrant banner or poster with your company name and logo and images- that will pull people into your booth. I pack all my displays, table coverings, frames, scissors, tarp, clamps and other assorted items in large rolling suitcases. If you have room in your car a folding dolly is indispensable.
You will need a minimum of two people to transport all of your things to the show AND into your booth. Arrange for that person to come at the show’s end to help move back as well. SOmeone usually has to stay with the vehicle while you are unloading and then you will be required to move the vehicle. Usually you can avoid expensive freight charges if you have a large vehicle, a dolly and a strong mover – all of which will make the process go faster! Some shows include drayage and packing in fact it is often part of your booth fee. This means you can unload your vehicle at a loading dock and get it brought to your booth on a skid. A large show may take a bit longer using this method, but it works for a small show. Sometimes it may take a little longer (you have to wait for them to bring out your containers) but you can do it without as much heavy lifting and carrying items to and from your vehicle.
The week before the show assemble everything in one place. Pack all your jewelry displays, branches, vases, magazine clips, signage, table coverings, sheets for covering the tables at night and a big tarp to close off the front of your booth- using clamps to close it up. Also bring fishing line to hang things, extra price tags and business cards, fine point sharpies, calculators, order sheets, and chargers for your phone and computer. I have a check list that I refer to for each show:
comfortable shoes to change into after the show
water bottles and candy (for you and your customers!)
extra chair (the show usually provides one but you may need an extra)
Computer and phone
Chargers for your electronics
email sign-in book
Brochures or promo materials
Business Cards/resale tax number
folding tables or pedestals
Checks for things you might buy at the show!!
hooks and hangers, double faced tape
plastic bags for jewelry or your jewelry cases when you are ready to pack it all up
Candy for customers
organizing boxes to store things under your tables.
Plastic bags for packing up orders prior to packing up.
Your Jewelry (if you can believe it, I forgot mine once and had to have someone take the train 3hrs to bring it me!)
Ok- your’re finished. Allow a 4-6 hours minimum to set it up so that it all works! Cover everything up, seal your booth with your tarp and go get a good night’s sleep!
The next day get up much earlier than you would like, get a cup of coffee, open your booth, take a deep breath, smile and start selling! Good luck!
The White Lilac on 38 Union Street in Manchester by the Sea is a special shop that opened in May. I am very impressed with owner Christine Burkett’s very first store! It is a beautifully curated shop with an historical interior that is perfectly charming.
Stop by and see the gifts and home decorating items including a great selection of gifts for dog owners and horse lovers! They are displaying a beautiful collection of my handcrafted earrings and necklaces, most with pearls and semiprecious stones. So if you need gifts or love shopping in Manchester by the Sea on the North Shore of Boston – now you have a new place to explore! And a new store to find Pam Older Designs jewelry!
Just completed a few new pieces that I love – The Victorian Heart & Leaf Drop earrings are both in handcrafted in pyrite. The earrings look great with my new Vintage Victorian Necklace (my all time favorite piece!). Also fond of a little brown leather bracelet with two curled vine leaves that I did as a special order. These great charm components came from a supplier called Nina Designs!
Here’s the recipe for a great weekend in New York City! Choose a gorgeous day to take a very early walk on the High Line, have brunch at Good Enough to eat on the Upper Westside and then go to see the Cindy Sherman show at MOMO. Dinner at the adorable West Village restaurant the Owl. At some point- off hours, or you won’t get in, sneak in to the best ramen joint in NYC- Totto in Hell’s Kitchen. Before you head home finish it up with a walk up to Zabars, stopping at a cafe to watch humanity stroll by! More time? get a ticket to a matinee and leave feeling like you got a real taste of the city- till next time! What to wear- I wore this pretty Pam Older Designs one of a kind necklace made from tanzanite, mandarin garnets and rutilated quartz .
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.
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!