Yes, I have 3 blogs already, but it seems that ArtFire suggests that I maintain one here too. Today I am going to talk about some questions I was asked by a group of non-crafty friends.
My friend Maureen is intrigued by the fact that I managed to mix the side of my brain that is all business with the side that is the artist. I really don't know how that works! It just always does. I know many people who are all one or the other. I constantly try to look at my art as my passion and make things that I love, but I also have to keep an eye on the business of craft.
The business of craft is what pays the bills and lets me keep buying supplies and learning new techniques, so it is at times the most important part of what we do. How much to charge? What to create? To do shows or just sell on line? These are questions a successful business has to ask all the time.
But the artist hates this, we just wanna make what we make how we make it and be paid for it.
I have probably made stuff for my entire life. Many gifts were made before I decided that I might be good enough to sell my jewelry designs. I started out selling to my clients at the hair salon I worked at, which evolved into putting a display in the salon I then owned. At that time lots of sparkly crystal stuff was popular and I often mixed my designs with purchases items to sell.
When I had to close the salon I had to concentrate on supporting my family, and I made some things, but didn't try to make that a big part of my income. A few years in I started to do a few small shows and got a tote to bring things into work to show off. I can honestly say my friend Paula pushed me into doing more shows. And to her credit (and retail experience) I did pretty good that year. I was so lucky to have her to drag to shows to sell stuff with me. She could sell ice to Eskimos!
Business was doing pretty good and my style had begun to evolve when I had several life crisis at one time. My husband lost his job and about 3 months later I was in a horrible car accident. I am lucky to be here, but my creative mojo wasn't happening for about 4 months. I pretty much took a year off to recover and then one day I wanted to make stuff again and it wasn't a struggle.
Once again I have to thank Paula for encouraging me thru out this whole process. She gave me a commission order for a necklace that she needed for a friend. Here is what I made for her...
Her friend had just lost a foot to a rapidly growing cancer and she wanted to give her a symbol to remind her of her strength.
I can't tell you how many resin coated pendants I have made since then! But I have a brain that won't stop so I evolved my work yet again with torch fired enamels. I came across Painting with Fire by Barbara Lewis. I decided to spend the money for the starter kit and fell in love with the method. Here are a few things I have made with my enameled pieces
And then....this evolved to fold forming! Since I had a torch I could easily heat the metal up and create things from them
In the necklace above, I used enamel, fold forming and yet another thing...Patina! So do you all see where this is going? Yup, I took a lampwork class after I had a fantastic show (I took 3rd place in fine art) and even though I never anticipated I would, now I have a kiln, oxygen concentrator, 2 (yes 2) torches and a supply of glass. Here is a necklace with my beads on it...
So as you can see, it is a journey.
Maureen bought this necklace the other day
She asked me how did I come up with this design and I had to tell her that it just kind of comes to me. Another friend said "so you don't do a sketch ahead of time?" And I had to say no, sometimes the pieces just speak to me. They come together on my workspace and I have an a HA moment. And sometimes it is an oh no moment when you try to put things together and you shake your head and say nope that doesn't work.
So that is the art side of what we do. The business side has to say "what should I charge for this"? I have a mentor who constantly tells me I undercharge, and I probably do. But, in this economy I try to make sure I make a profit and make my jewelry accessible to a wide group of clients. I almost always have some earrings in the $10 range at a show and a few show pieces that are over my magic $50 number. The big deal pieces will draw them in, but most of the time people buy multiple of the lower priced pieces and end up spending the same amount, but feeling satisfied because they got more for the $$ they spent
I keep track of what shows were successful, and which ones I would never do again (even if the booth space were free). I also look at the potential to grow my customer base, like the dance convention I did. This year was ok, but next year the ladies will be waiting for me to be there and ready to buy.
I am also evolving my displays and set up this year. I want to have a more cohesive set up which may involve using my sewing skills to make skirts and table covers. I am also haunting flea markets and antique markets for fabulous finds to repurpose as displays (or use in my designs)
I look to expand the number of shows I do next year as well as introduce a display at my current salon location and also to continue to evolve my skills and designs style. No matter how long you have been making "stuff:", you are never done learning and going down new avenues of creativity!