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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Business Chat - jewelry vocabulary

It’s another slow sales time of year so we’re back to working ON the business rather than IN the business. That combined with having just written our 2011 business plan (you did write a plan didn’t you?) means that it’s time to tackle how to sell our work for the next few posts. Even if you don’t want to quit your job and make this into your full-time occupation you still have to sell your work. Work costs money to make. Do you know how much you have invested in your craft bench? Do you track your expenses? Wouldn’t it be nice to recoup those costs? So lets sell some work.
Before you approach a store or stand in front of the public in a booth there are some vocabulary words you should know so that you can sound like a serious professional.

Here’s a guide to jewelry terms:
  • Collection – a collection is a body of work. (meaning everything you have)
  • Series or Line – a series or line is a group of work with a common defining element.
  • One-of-a-kind – as the name says, you have made (and will only make) ONE. You will not reproduce this piece every again.
  • Limited edition – this is when you design a piece and make only a certain number of them. When they’re sold out, that’s it.
  • Production – production pieces are pieces that you do on a repeated and unlimited basis.

When you stock an online store or a jewelry booth, or approach a store you should present several lines in your collection. A line means you have a coherent body of work not a random bunch of chaotic material. The common defining element can be an idea or a thing, what you are trying to do is show unity. On a table this also means that the work all looks like it belongs together. My most popular series is my “Ocean” series (hey, I am Sailorgirl). Within that series I have a variety of price points and of course necklaces, bracelets, pendant and earrings. Some of it is silver (such as a small starfish pendant) and most of it is glass. There are all sorts of different designs but they all represent Ocean in some way. When put together it is coherent and consistent.

Usually when a store buys from you they will look at several lines and then pick one or two that they carry. When you walk into a jewelry store look around carefully. It is well curated not just random pieces. Take a good look at your work, does it look like it was made by the same designer? Are there matching pieces, or sets? Customers may not buy the matching earrings to a necklace but they like to know that they’re available. If you are stocking on online store or your own craft show booth keep in mind the concept of “lines”, does your store look coherent?

One of a kind work sells well in a craft show. It is difficult to sell this work online and make money, the time you invest in shooting the images and listing the work will outweigh any profit on the piece. For this reason it is also difficult to sell one of a kind work to stores and make any profit. Unless you can sell your one of a kind work at a very high price it is difficult to make any money on it at all. The time you invest in design and making is usually too much to recoup. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t make one of a kind work, not at all, you can balance this off by making money on your production work.

Production work is the bread and butter of any jewelry business. Production work doesn’t mean that you start making 1000 of every design, it means that you find a design or technique and make it over and over. You can make it in different colours, different materials (copper vs silver, rose quartz vs turquoise), or different sizes. By making a piece repeatedly you become faster reducing your labour costs. Stores are also much more likely to carry work they know that can get again. Limited edition work is a way of combining the elements of one-of-a-kind and production. Because you are making a design several times you will reduce your labour costs and your material costs (always cheaper to buy in bulk) and a customer knows that they aren’t buying a mass produced item. Many times customers love your one of a kind work but they aren’t willing to pay the exorbitant costs.

For this week take a look at your work while thinking of these terms. Look at your online store if you have one. If you’re contemplating approaching a store look at the work you want to present. Do you have lines? What is the state of your collection? Do you have matching sets? How much production work do you make (meaning can you actually make money here?)

Bottom line, do you look like a professional designer?

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