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.
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.
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!
25 of the Smartest Pieces of Advice from Women Who Started Their Own Businesses
From O Magazine interviews over the past decade
“We wanted to see if our cakes would sell, so for months we held tasting parties for friends and family. We asked guests to write comments anonymously on cards. Mostly, people said nice things, but they also said ‘too moist,’ ‘too sweet,’ and ‘needs to be more pineapple-y’—which sort of got my mom’s back up. My mom worked on the recipes until people thought the cakes had just the right amount of moistness, sweetness, and flavor.”
—Norrinda Brown, Co-Owner, Brown Betty Dessert BoutiqueBuild a Network “I’ve participated in a number of stationery shows, and along the way I’ve struck up informal relationships with other entrepreneurs. We compare notes across the aisle; it’s good to talk to others who are going through the same thing, and together you can brainstorm ways to partner on future projects.”
—Kim See, Founder, Kemse & Company, which specializes in multicultural stationery designFollow Your Customers
My taste wasn’t completely resonating with my suburban customers. My sales weren’t as good as they could be, and the people who were buying had come up from the city. Obviously, I needed to move downtown, but rents aren’t cheap. Still, in 2005, I did it. My sales went right up.”
—Chandra Greer, Owner, Greer, a Chicago stationery storeMentor Others
“I didn’t have a lot of money to pay assistants, so I called the youth employment service at my son’s high school and advertised for art students. They sent me two great girls.”
—Pam Older, Founder of the jewelry firm Pam Older Designs”
Toot Your Own Horn
“Women, especially Southern women, are taught to be demure. When I first opened, I didn’t want to be a show-off and name my company after myself. Instead I called it WSG (Wilson Services Group) Consulting. Huge mistake. No one could remember it. Plus, my expertise and talent are what clients are buying. We rebranded this year as Robin Wilson Home. Business is booming.”
—Robin Wilson, Renovation and Design Manager
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!
Your dream wedding- an exquisite bridal gown, a gracious venue and your gorgeous bridal party dressed in their dresses and smiles! Where do you go for the perfect bridal jewelry? As a jewelry designer I have access to stones in every color of the rainbow, gold or silver and the creativity to make your jewelry dreams come true. If it’s diamonds in platinum or a simple silver necklace, Pam Older Designs can make handcrafted bridal jewelry the way you envision it- customized to the women you are giving it to.
Pam Older Designs offers customized jewelry for brides, bridesmaids and flower girls. Select from existing styles or collaborate with us on designs for handmade earrings and necklaces that will enhance your wedding. Send us pictures of your dresses, swatches of fabric and other materials that you would like to us to use as inspiration. Our semiprecious stones will flatter your wedding party and make unique gifts.
Like most brides these days, you are most likely looking for jewelry that accents the colors of the dresses you have chosen for your bridal party. The semiprecious stone earrings and necklaces we make for them will become a cherished gift – a personal thank you for being part of your wedding day. Pam Older Designs has worked with many brides to design their perfect bridal jewelry. Westchester Weddings and Bridal Guide Magazine both featured my handmade jewelry! One of my favorite pictures in The Bridal Guide is a long coral necklace they used in a destination wedding article.
Color is big right now and many of my designs on http://www.pamolderdesigns.com work for wedding jewelry. I adore working with brides to custom make artisan wedding jewelry. Just give us some notice so we can work with you to find the most gorgeous materials available. I truly lovve making beautiful bridal jewelry – its my way of making a meaningful contribution to all the beautiful brides on their wedding day!