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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tips from Experienced Jewelry Artists

I thought the tips, advice and humor in these posts from Etsy's forums were so good that I had to put them somewhere they wouldn't get buried under the horror avalanche that is Etsy's forums. So I present to you: wisdom from those who have gone before. Enjoy. It's long but worth it. Not sure what's up with the spacing =/

  • You will make many, many, mistakes. Don't waste them; they are valuable if you learn from them.

  • Artists create because they have a need to put their thoughts, ideas, and imaginations into something concrete. They create because they need to express themselves. They create because they have to.

  • Not everyone understands us or why we are so passionate about the creative process. (That's OK because I don't understand why golfers get so excited about what they do.)

  • NEVER, EVER eat popcorn or for that matter, grapes- when working with beads.

  • You will never have nice fingernails again!

  • You will burn your fingers from time to time.

  • You really should wear a dust mask.

  • Your bench will cry out to you at all hours when your not there.

  • You will forget to eat...and must remember to feed your children!

  • I suggest taking a break when you have more than one problem with a peice. Walk away and have some water, come back when your head and hands are clear.

  • DONT solder when you are being rushed.

  • When learning something new you will never know where it will take you. don't be afraid to try an idea, even if what you try doesn't work, you will learn something from the process
  • Don't buy the tool you found at Harbor Freight (or somewhere else). There is a reason it is so much cheaper. Buy the very best you can afford - it will save you money in the long run.You will become a late-night or very early morning person, because this is the only time you know you won't be interrupted by spouse, children, neighbors or phone calls.
  • You will get annoyed whenever the phone rings and soon you will learn to check caller ID every time it does.
  • You will begin to consider watching television a waste of valuable time.
  • Don't be overly critical of your work. sometimes you need to put it down, walk away from it and look at it with fresh eyes later on.
  • Your dogs (or kids or cats) will know, somehow, just when you have your hands full of beads, or have something you're running through the rolling mill, or just as you have the torch on and are almost at the anneal point ... and they will absolutely positively need something RIGHT NOW!
  • If you plan on working with wire, just bite the bullet and buy yourself a pair of Lindstroms. Any Lindstrom (cutters if you can afford nothing else, collect them all if you can).
  • Recognize that the ideas you may have (however original), may have been thought up before you and not to become discouraged that you are not an artist because someone designed a piece shockingly similar to yours, before you did. Conversely, accept the fact that not every piece of jewelry out there posted after your own, is someone else copying you.
  • Keeping doing this for as long as it makes you happy.
  • Believe in yourself and don't look at other's works too often as it may become discouraging. Admire, but know that we are all artists at different parts of our journey and a year from now, your work will evolve as well as your skill levels.
  • Don't produce 15 of the bracelet you're so in love with until you've test marketed it.
  • Don't underprice your work.
  • Don't just drop in on a business owner with your work in hand. Make an appointment!
  • View other jewelry artists as friends and members of the same community you reside rather than "the competition" (unless of course, you've found out they've been copying all your ideas!).
  • Always...and I mean *always* tie your hair back, when soldering, if your hair is past shoulder length.
  • Your dreams will now be full of beads and tools
  • When vacuuming you will hear rattling from all the beads you've lost in the carpet
  • Your husband / wife / significant other will become jealous of beads and your jewelry pliers
  • You will fall in love with the freedom, creativity, and pure joy that creating jewelry brings you :)
  • Never bead in bed or you (or your significant other) will get wire, beads and all other manner of oddities stuck to your backside and some are very sharp
  • To go fast, go slow. (IE, to finish a project in the quickest way possible, take your time on it- you'll make fewer mistakes.)
  • Every now and again, take stock of what you have in your stash, and force yourself to hold off on buying anything new until you've used a good percentage of it.
  • Always test wear your creations...It might be beautiful but it might cause a permanent slouch, poke, or cause general discomfort
  • DO NOT casually toss anything in the pickle pot. PLACE it in carefully. Not that I know anything about it but-- the "remedy" for getting acid (pickle) out of your eye in the emergency room hurts more than the pickle. You need your eyes to make jewelry; take care of them!
  • Listen to your body. Even if you are up for a 12 hour creative session your body might not be. RSIs are so easy to ignore at first and can take over your life if you let them by ignoring them.
  • If you spend to much time marketing in whatever format you will also dream about this. ie: flea market, farmer's market, craft fair, etsy forums. Take breaks. Take a day off. Find a balance between creating, selling and life.
  • Be generous. To your collaborators, family and friends. Also with yourself. Give yourself time and permission to enjoy your craft.
  • View others as colleagues with whom you have much in common. Competition is for those I might wholesale my work to, finding a niche in which to thrive amongst colleagues is much easier on the psyche.
  • Just because you are unhappy with a piece doesn't mean somebody else may not love it. I've sold a few that I had been planning to take apart. You never know...
  • Be nice and encouraging to those who are just starting out. That used to be you
  • You never stop learning your craft. There is always something new to master.
  • There are no mistakes- only future new techniques being discovered.
  • When your creativity feels "out to lunch" do mileage, something tedious but necessary like re-drilling pearls, or making head pins.
  • Believe in yourself and stick to your guns regarding your pricing. Many a jewelry artist has said that if they have an item that isn't selling, they raise the price rather than reduce it and...Voilà...it sells. The old adage "you get what you pay for" is true.
  • Stop. Stretch your back. Go back to being hunched over.
  • Shiny beads and wire are addictive. Soon you'll be spending more for stuff to store them in that you spend on undies for a year.Wire jammed into skin next to your fingernail can cause infection, even if it doesn't bleed. Keep peroxide handy. Yes, I found this out the hard way.
  • You'll need to purchase tv trays to eat on as the kitchen table will always be covered with works in progress.
  • You will be told many times that jewelry is not 'real art' - its best to ignore them for their lack of understanding.
  • Every so often, check the couch cushions. It's like pirate booty under there!
  • Sons do not appreciate the HAMMERING whilst sleeping. Even if it only takes two minutes.
  • Don't work with beads over a thick carpet, they WILL spill, that is a fact and a guarantee.
  • Don't ever underestimate the power of silver or resin dust. Wear a mask. If you are not comfortable in one mask, try another brand or design. The minute it takes to locate and put one on is far easier than dealing with a bad case of inhalation pneumonia.
  • Anneal! Anneal! Anneal!
  • Be prepared - you WILL get some really strange custom requests that leave you going, "huh?!".
  • Buy the best tools *you* can afford. Don't let a lack of fancy tools hold you back. Top-of-the-line is great if you can afford it, but what counts is what you do, not what you buy. People have been crafting awesome jewelry for many, many years without access to bank-busting tools-- if you want to, you can too!
  • Make what YOU love, not what you think others will buy.
  • You do NOT have to say YES to every custom order - even if you CAN make it that doesn't mean you HAVE to (counts 2x for family and friend requests) Every custom order you do that is simply a "can you make this like this" order takes you away from your own creative vision and your time is precious.
  • Keep a knee high stocking handy while beading - put it over the end of the vacume hose and you can easily pick up everything you drop (or spill).
  • When you feel your head ready to explode, put your hands in the air and walk away from your workbench.
  • Don't pick up just made head pins with your fingers even if they have stopped glowing red.
  • Hide the sales flyer for tools from your husband, only one of you can afford to go the sale and if he doesn't know about it he can't go.
  • I bought one of those plastic carpet mats you see in offices for under my desk so when a bead hits the ground I can now find it 50% of the time. The other 50% are gone forever.
  • A really good way to force yourself out of the box is to open a container of beads and make yourself make at least three different things without opening another container. It also helps you use up some of that huge stash.
  • Don't use a torch near curtains with the window open. Better yet don't use a torch near curtains at all.
  • Oh and throwing your torch across the room when things are not going well is a really bad idea.
  • Doing chainmail with black rings is no harder than with silver, IF you have three times as much light.
  • Don't be afraid to color outside the lines.
  • Sometimes there is a "better way", sometimes not.
  • You're going to need a bigger hammer. Actually, several.
  • Don't buy headpins, clasps, earwires or bead caps when you can make them yourself.
  • Take 2 days off a week, just like a normal job. It will give your some perspective & maybe even some new ideas!
  • Oh, when you are cutting wire, you get itsy bitsy slivers of wire in your fingers that you can never
  • Don't let one negative opinion (be it about a piece, your prices, photography or anything else) make you change the way you do things. If you get a TON of negative feedback about something, maybe it's time to consider other options.
  • I dunno if someone has said it yet, but dont string beads in front of a cat!
  • Something I learned from a friend of mine: Never leave your thread and needle out if you have cats, it can result in an very costly vet bill.
  • Look to nature for inspiration. You will become more aware of color combinations, lines and curls, lighting, etc. You will begin to see that you don't always need symmetry to have beauty. Lack of symmetry or balance can stimulate interest in a piece. Who says everything has to match anyway?
  • Ive also learned to not try and trap myself into one particular style of jewellery, I find every time i try and do that, I change my mind, so I make what comes from my hands/heart and soul!
  • Hey, if you saw, instead of snip, your wire, it won't go flying AND you'll save major time/ effort/ waste by not having to file down mushed, pinched ends. Cutting a wedge out of your bench block gives you a place to rest the wire while sawing so that the wood, not your fingers, are behind it.
  • If you don't have a bench block but need to saw something, put on a pair of rubber gloves...the metal won't slip and your fingers won't cramp up from trying to hold it in place.
  • Measure twice and cut once!
  • Take advantage of the 'happy accident' - some of my favourite pieces came out of mishaps or unintended results... and never ever throw unfinished pieces out!
  • If an idea hits you-try to draw it out first, think of a color palette for your design and please when ordering new stock-ALWAYS double check your bead sizes and wire gauges.
  • Always save your scrap - you can sell or use it in the future.
  • The soldering gods are not always on your side, when this happens - make an offering to them, then leave for an hour or two, then when you come back they may be happier.
  • Don't get nitric acid on your hand your skin will turn black for a week.
  • Don't leave a turned on flexshaft armed with a drill bit hanging by your knee, you just might stand up on the pedal and drill a 2 inch hole in your leg.
  • Always protect your eyes and your lungs.
  • A magnet is a handy thing to have around to pick up scraps!
  • Open faced sandals aren't just a nono in the kitchen. Ambient glass particles will settle and silently snuggle into your calluses where they hide until that fun day when you discover your stowaways.ry to set yourself a budget before setting foot in a supply/bead/tool/gemstone shop... or be happy to live on pasta and plain rice for the next month or 6...
  • Always have access to more than your budget for supplies/beads/tools/gemstones as you will always find something that you just have to have... rice is good for you after all...
  • Children are better than you at finding lost beads in berber carpeting. They have young eyes and small fingers.
  • If you have a dog, don't drop anything or they will grab it and race out the door, leading to a fun game (for them) of catch me if you can!
  • patience, patience, patience! If you rush at all, you will end up with
  1. firescale
  2. melting
  3. burns
  4. lost beads/bezels/findings/mind
  • Never keep beads next to Advil

  • If you have cats, just go for full scale bead/string/cord/chain mania 24/7. They will eventually get overwhelmed and give up and be disgusted with your lack of organization. I can leave an incomplete, half-strung project out for days and they don't even come near it b/c they can't find it! Of course, I wandered out of my bedroom to get something to drink the other night, and they were both working on their own line of earrings--in the dark, you know, because they're cats. When I confronted them about it, they just looked at me and said, "Oh hey, welcome to 'Frisky Beads.'" I didn't know what to say; I was so hurt. Finally, I just held back the tears and said, "You guys can't use my camera. So there.

  • Keep your sheet solder marked with a sharpie and well separated from your silver sheet. It makes terrible bezels! (Same as for your silver wire, and wire solder!)

  • A bench pin is a necessity, no matter how much you think you don't need one. If you use it one time, you'll wonder how and why you didn't get one right away. Mine is a combo pench pin/bench block that can be temporarily screwed to the table.

  • Never skip filing solder seams or solder blobs, it always shows (even if you hammer the piece).

  • You will always think..."hmmm I just need this/these few items, then I will not purchase any new materials for the next many months"....RIGHT!

  • Repetition improves your skill level. You can make something once easily, making the second one that looks the same is a the test.

  • Don't forget to "play!"

  • If you can, work in a room with a door, have a note or sign on it when you can't be disturbed, and CLOSE it!...but make sure you open it before the day is over!

  • Something always happens to your machine three days before a major show

  • Not many people understand passion when it comes to your handmade product

  • Always think of working for yourself, and the rewards it will bring

  • Don't think people are out to "copy" you. You are but a drop in the ocean of fellow jewelry artisans and companies like Ross Simons, Sundance, etc. Instead, just do your thing, don't worry about anyone else, and focus on refining your technique. THAT is what is difficult to copy because it is like a fingerprint of your style, unique unto you. And your technique is what people will remember and be drawn to.

  • If your sister-in-law never says a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g about what you do; not even "that looks like s**t", it is a true giveaway of her feelings of envy. So, don't get mad, feel sad (not really but it rhymed), and make her something you know she will love. You will feel better about yourself and...she will feel like s**t - OK, leave the last clause out...:(

  • Find your own voice, its worth the trouble.

  • You can NEVER have enough beads/stones EVER

  • Do NOT blow off extra enamel, it tends to do more harm than good

  • Look at your feet from time to time. If you don't recognize them, you have been sitting too long and you may not be able to even go to the grocery store because they are so swollen that your shoes won't fit.
  • It can be inspiring to let your 8-year-old niece dig through the glass beads and come up with combinations you never would have thought of -- as long as she's well past the pretty princess/everything must be pink phase.
  • Try not to let the women in your office who sell Lia Sophia jewelry (and love it) get you down, even when they only whisper about it around you and don't invite you to lunch because they know you will harangue them on crappy materials and child labor. :)
  • If you work directly on hard wood floors, a plastic mat is a must to protect your floors from your crafting frenzies…I learned the hard way!
  • When buying supplies, always make sure that you take the measurements correctly so that you will have no surprises once your goods reaches you. Cm, mm, inches, it can get confusing! Recommended bookmark: http://www.worldwidemetric.com/metcal.htm
  • Keep solid books. A basic Excel spreadsheet will work wonders. I keep my revenues and expanses in separate spreadsheets as it allows me to track all the details; sales on etsy, private sales, craft sales, boutiques sales. I do it rigorously so that I can have a clear portrait of the financial health of my business at any time. Plus, it makes my life so much easier when tax season comes around!

  • Be nice, be true. With the Etsy community, with your fellow artist at craft sales, with your loved ones. When you are good at heart it shows and it will take you a long way! :)

  • Price your goods well. Being an artist is wonderful, but in the end it’s all about the profit margin. You have to make money to survive and the buy more supplies! ;-) Recommended link: http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com/jewelry-pricing-formula.html

  • If you decided to do consignment, a legal contract is in order with selling terms of your goods in consignment, including an inventory signed and dated. Make sure all your pieces are photographed and numbered so that it will be easy for you/boutiques to keep inventory up to date.

  • Listen to your clients. They are the voice of wisdom when it comes to know what works and what doesn’t it your creations. Adjust accordingly. Take notes of what sells in craft sales, so that the next time around, you’ll have more than one piece on hand to meet demand.

  • KNOW YOUR MOOD before you get to work. Some days are better HAMMERING days than soldering tiny intricate pieces days.

  • Don't work with beads/stones over a CERAMIC TILE floor, either! You will hear the pitter-patter of bouncing components, if you drop something. I would suggest a low lying area rug under your work table and chair. And periodic treasure hunts.

  • Also: wear samples of your jewelry (made for yourself, to keep as display) whenever you go out. Keep business cards on hand for people who admire your work.

  • Take jewelry rolls with you to restaurants or whatever. If you roll the pieces out, it's not uncommon that you sell them - or at least attract attention for card distribution.

  • Love what you do. If you find, at some point, that it's more "work" than joy or creative expression, then you need to take a break - because your muse might have already done so.

  • Believe in yourself and your work. As long as you make it the best you possibly can, and strive to learn more and improve, then you're doing what you should ☺

  • Never be jealous of sharing what you have learned with others. They will express it in their own way, and the world will be a better place.

2 comments:

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Youvegotmaille said...

Thanks Kim :)