Thoughts on jewelry making – price and selling.

It is really hard to price my work. Do I price it based on how much I love it, how much the materials cost, or how much I think I can get for it? Often it is a combination of all of these.
Sometimes I have something I call “the annoyment factor” to deal with. In part that refers to how annoying it was to make. Either it took me a lot of time because the process is fiddly or the materials are hard to work with. Stringing things on Tigertail is easy and cheap. Using the same beads but using copper wire, where I have to hand link is hard. I love making jewelry this way but very few people appreciate the labor involved.
Sometimes the annoying part is the person. The beads might be inexpensive and the process might be easy, but the person might be difficult. Sometimes it costs me a lot of energy to deal with certain people. I want to be reimbursed for that. Sometimes I don’t want to ever deal with that person again and so I put a high price on my work.
Sometimes I have the “don’t blink” price. I’ll have a really high price on something and I know that the people looking at it don’t know what was involved. For instance, I made a bead once that looked like a woman. Because I was working with MAPP gas and not oxy-propane it was even more difficult. I had only 40 minutes to finish it, rather than hours. I could only make it an inch long. There are a lot of limitations working with that medium, but it is a lot safer and cheaper than the other. People tried to bargain down the price I quoted and I didn’t budge. I stood with the price because I knew the amount of effort involved.
I don’t make jewelry as my job. I do it for fun. I’d like to get at least the price of the beads back. I certainly want to get paid for my time and my creativity. I’d also appreciate getting paid for my knowledge too.
I put a lot of energy into making jewelry. I read books about beads and gemstones. I know the hidden meaning and I’m aware of the history and energy behind the beads. I don’t just string beads. I create. I shape. I like to think of it as something like a shaman’s work. When I’m making something for a specific person I match the beads to them not just by color but by intent. For instance, a bead may be black, but it is also made of lava, and as such has deep significance.
One time a guy was asking about the price of some beads I had made. I used to do lampworking, so these were unique beads. He had an assortment of them picked out. I wanted to give him a good price that was fair to both of us. Because I’d made them at work the only investment I had in them was my time and ability. The glass and gas were free to me. I said “How about $23?” He countered with “How about $20? He thought when I said “How about…” that meant that there was wiggle room, but he was wrong. I got very cold and said “How about $25?” That surprised him. I don’t like being insulted about my work. I’d given him a very reasonable price, in fact far too low for the time I’d spent.
I don’t really want to take the time necessary to teach people about beads. I want them to appreciate the value that they have, but they don’t. In order to get the price I’m asking I have to teach them and be patient. I got great prices when I bought necklaces at thrift stores and then redesigned them. A 25¢ necklace could be remade into a $15 necklace with a little time and a few extra beads. But now I’m going to bead shows and getting strands that are imported and sometimes antique, so the prices have to go up. I don’t have a wholesale license, and I really don’t want one. That would take some of the fun out of it.
One person messaged me about a necklace on my Etsy page. She wanted me to either drop the shipping cost or lower the price of the necklace. If the necklace had been full price I would have worked with her, but it was just $5 over the price of the beads as it was. My shopping charge isn’t high. It is the price of the packing material and the average shipping price. I decided that I would rather not sell it at all than feel like I’m being insulted.
Some shops on Etsy offer free shipping but really nothing is free. The cost is always factored in somewhere. I’d rather be honest and charge a fair shipping charge than have to raise my prices to cover it.
Sometimes people want a high price. They think it has more value if it is high. Maybe I should raise all my prices so people value my work. They certainly aren’t buying as is – I might as well get a good price when they do. Perhaps they will take my work seriously if it costs more.
Then sometimes people will want to trade beads for beads. I’ll do this occasionally, but they better be beads I can use. Plastic beads are never considered. Weird shapes, the same. Otherwise I have beads that I can’t use taking up space in my bins.
Consignment is the worst. I understand how it benefits the shop – they don’t have to pay anything for the merchandise until it sells. Too often, I get stuff lost or stolen, and I’m out money. It requires too much effort to keep up with.

On art – collage, time, and audience.

I’m working on a new art style. I’m trying to do collage and it is testing my patience. I love the art of Nick Bantock, of the “Griffin and Sabine” series. I don’t want to replicate his work but I do want to try to approach its emotion and depth. The problem is that it takes a long time and you can’t erase.
When making jewelry using beads, if the pattern doesn’t work out you can always take it apart and redo it. Even years later you can always try again if the design gets old. Not so with collage. Once you paint something or glue it down it is done. You can’t go backwards and change things if it looks weird later. You can’t reposition it. You are stuck. You’ve used up the materials too – you are out that money. It also takes a long time. If you have multiple layers, you have to let each one dry for hours. I’m not really that patient, but I have to be to make this work.
This has stopped me from even trying this style for a long time. I’ve got lots of art materials that I’ve not used at all for fear of doing it wrong. So I’m wasting them even more so. It would be better to use them and figure out what works and what doesn’t work than to not use them at all.
Boats are safe in the harbor, but that isn’t what boats are made for. The same is true of collage. The same is true of life.
I’ve decided with collage the best thing is to just get over my “need” to start something and finish it in the same sitting. I certainly don’t feel that I have to do that with beads or with writing, so I don’t know why I think my painting has to be the same way. Maybe I want to see results fast. Maybe it is because I don’t have a lot of time to work on my art.
I think part of it might be that I resent the amount of time my job takes from me having time to do what I want. I just don’t seem to have a lot of time to do “me” things. I know I’m not alone in this thought. Nobody gets up and says “Yeah! I get to go be a cube-farmer today!” Don’t get me wrong – I like my job. I like the people I help. I just don’t think it requires 40 hours a week to do it. After 40 hours of work and the time required for sleep, there isn’t a lot of time for “me” stuff.
I’d rather work 30 hours than 40. I’ve asked if it is possible and they don’t think so. So I shoehorn in my “me” things – writing, exercise, art. I love the space I go to in my head when I create, and it is hard to wrestle myself back to a clock and a schedule and go to work after being in that space.
I’m starting to see collage as a good middle ground. Since I simply can’t do it all in one sitting, it works well with not having much time. I’ll do a layer, wait, do another layer, wait, and do another layer. I can’t work on it for hours at a time, and that works because I don’t have hours to work on it.
Collage is strange to work with because I don’t know how it is going to look until I’m done. I have some general idea but then when I add another element it changes everything. I can get an idea of where things are going before I glue a piece down but then sometimes when the glue dries it changes the effect. It is always a surprise. Sometimes it isn’t a welcome surprise.
But then I remember that with writing and with beads, the stuff that I really planned out and really love how meticulous and amazing it turned out happens to be the stuff that nobody “gets”. Nobody likes it or appreciates the work involved except me. Conversely, the stuff that I really don’t care about much – the stuff that I worked on and just don’t like as much is the stuff that people rave over. That is the stuff that I think is OK enough for others to see, but it just doesn’t get my idea across the way I meant to.
There are plenty of pieces of writing and pieces of jewelry and other artwork that I’ve created that nobody has ever seen. I feel like I show a lot of what I make, but what people see is just half of what I’ve produced. Some things I feel are just warm-ups, just stretching. Some things are simply exercises that help strengthen me for something better later.
I don’t feel like this about my art at the time. I want everything to be a marathon win, but some things just peter out about the three-mile mark. Or maybe that is just me. Maybe I need to show it anyway. Following the usual trend, they will be the things that people will really “get”. But for now, I don’t want to show them because I don’t want to put my name on them.
When you show any art – be it writing or visual art, you put your name on it. You say “this is me”. For good or for bad, you are showing off what you have made. People will judge you by it, for good or for bad. So you have to be careful what you show. You want to be known for good work so people will seek you out and buy what you have made. You want to get a reputation as a maker of good things. Do you keep with one motif, or do you have a range? Do you create for an audience, or create for yourself? Whatever you decide, you have to be mindful of who is going to see it and what they are going to think. Does this cause you fear, so you edit? Does this cause you excitement, so you embellish? Your relationship with the audience will influence your work.
Art isn’t yours anymore when you let other people see it. It changes. The meaning changes. What you thought it meant doesn’t matter anymore. When another person sees it, she brings herself to it. She brings what she loves and hates to it and sees that in it. Art is a mirror. It isn’t something that stands on its own and speaks for itself. It would be great if it was, but it isn’t.