A question of quality

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So over the last couple of weeks I’ve become fairly disillusioned with my work. I started following Epheriell, a handmade jewellery designer who is also Australian and works from her home, and has created this little amazing business with blogs and mailing lists and all sorts of stuff, and who is actually successful. Although I enjoy what I do and have a small following, I have never made enough money from my business to live on – although I feel like I am working constantly (designing, making, accounting, promoting, etc etc). So I’ve subscribed to Epheriell’s “Create & Thrive” mailing list, which is full of tips on how to make your small business successful.

I realised that I already do a lot of the things mentioned in the mailing list emails. (Although there have also been some good tips like, not renewing expired Etsy listings all at once, but rather spreading them out over several days, so as to gain as much exposure as possible for your shop). So then I started trying to work out what it is that makes such a huge difference between the success of Epheriell’s business and my own. Meanwhile I contacted IAMTHELAB.com about the possibility of advertising on their site – inspired by the tips I was reading in Epheriell’s mailing list. I received a message back that was basically along the lines of “thanks but no thanks” (ok, maybe not that harsh – they said that they focus on more of a modern/contemporary aesthetic and maybe I should look into advertising with a blogger who has more of a focus on boho/eclectic style).

I think it was then that it hit me – the reason why I was not enjoying the same sort of success as Epheriell and other successful handmade artists, and why I had been feeling this vague dissatisfaction in my work for so long. As a single parent, I don’t have very much money, and even less to invest in my business, so out of necessity I tend to buy cheaper materials for my work. I essentially make costume jewellery – always silver plated rather than sterling silver, acrylic beads rather than glass, thrifted components rather than genuine vintage. I have the skills to make higher quality jewellery, but have never invested the money in the higher quality materials – rather, I have focused on quantity over quality, and I am beginning to realise that this has been a huge mistake. I now have a huge amount of unsold stock, some pieces dating back to 2010, and I am rapidly running out of room for it all. With so many small costume jewellery resellers springing up now, I’m finding myself competing with  factory-made jewellery which is essentially on the same tier as my own work – it’s just that mine is handmade. Those resellers can make a profit selling jewellery for low prices because it is mass produced… I cannot.

So, how to fix this? I’ve already started, by planning a massive revamp of my entire business. I am currently having a huge sale of almost all of my old stock – you can find my sale section of my Storenvy store here and the sale section of my Etsy store here. After the sale (I haven’t quite decided when I’m going to end it yet) I plan to retire these pieces. I’m tossing up the idea of making a new account/shop on Etsy to sell old stock/destash, because I want to get rid of all of my old lower quality materials as well.

After this clean out? I am going to purchase new, much higher quality materials. Think jewellery made with hand wrapped 24k gold filled wire, vintage silk cord, rough gemstones and Swarovski glass. I am studying new jewellery making techniques – I want to make pieces that require a higher level of skill, rather than pieces that anyone could make by buying a few cheap charms and beads off Etsy. And I want to sell pieces for prices that actually reflect the time and effort that go into them.

It’s not only my jewellery work that I want to improve. I also have plans for making new ranges of makeup (in fact, I have already purchased the components to begin experimenting for my future products), making handmade clothing (rather than upcycled) and I’ve also been researching selling art prints (giclée prints, printed with archival inks)… but these are all plans for a bit further in the future. I think the thing to focus on right now is getting my jewellery fixed up. It’s a bit overwhelming – I basically have to revamp my entire business image – but hopefully this will end up being more profitable in the long run. :)

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Welcome to my new blog! Some introspection to start us off…

My name is Jess, and this is my brand new blog for updates, thoughts, ideas, imaginings and other randomness related to my little creative business, Jeski.

I love to make things. It’s an addiction, really… I’m always a little unsettled unless I am making something. A few years ago I decided to attempt to make some money from the things I was making, and my business has grown from there into a weird, somewhat eccentric entity which keeps to an aesthetic that really reflects the essence of who I am. My work is very much tied in with my personality, and although that is sometimes not fantastic for business, it’s something I am proud of and want to stick with. I am an artist more than a businesswoman. :P

In keeping with the artist thing – I don’t make duplicates. Everything that I make is one of a kind. It’s been suggested to me that I might do well if I took some of my more popular pieces and had them mass produced in China, but I think that would take away from what I am trying to achieve with my work, which is creating pieces of wearable art that people buy because they know that they will be the only person who has that particular piece.

On the other hand that sounds a bit conceited really when you consider that the majority of my jewellery pieces are made from premade components. Although I’ve done a course in silver jewellery making and studied other creation-from-scratch processes, I rarely make things absolutely from scratch and this is reflected in my prices (my maximum price for jewellery is usually around $16). But I am more selling design than I am selling the pieces themselves, if that makes sense. I always try to make sure that my pieces are not the same as anyone else’s, because a lot of people who sell on Etsy use the same components for their work.

In saying that though – I do make a fair few things that are entirely created from scratch – my paintings are a main example. In the future I would really like to start making clothing from scratch – I have the skills and the sewing machine, I just need to get motivated and start designing/making things.

Anyways, that’s enough introspection for now, heh. I’d be hugely appreciative if you follow my blog – there will be updates on what I’m doing with my work, discussion of creative process, links to other artists and creators I admire, all sorts of things. :) If you have a blog you think I would be interested in, please don’t hesitate to let me know about it! <3