Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pricing Handmade ???

Unfortunately, if you're looking for answers on how to price your handmade goods, you won't find it here.  For me it's been an on-going problem that I still haven't completely resolved.  Early on my prices fluctuated with each show.  If people seemed to think they were too high I'd lower them for the next show.  Then someone would comment on how "reasonable" my prices were or asked how I could sell so cheaply and I'd raise them again.

In trying to solve this problem I found lots of formulas out there on how to find your wholesale and retail price.  After all, you need to charge enough at retail to be able to sell for less to wholesalers.  So there's:

             2x cost of supplies + time at your hourly wage = wholesale
             Double this for retail.

             3 to 5X the cost of supplies will give you enough to cover your time


             there is the Rena Klingenberg school of thought which includes the cost of packaging and other supplies and considers booth fees, camera, tools, etc.

Because I use genuine stones, fine and sterling silver, and gold I have never sold at full retail.  In this area and in this economy it just isn't possible. My prices have always been somewhere between wholesale and full retail.  Which is now a problem as I've started consigning to a few gift shops who take a 30% or 40% cut.

So if I don't have answers why did I even bring this up?   Lately some of my craft show customers have been very price conscious, even asking if I give discounts.  And at 2 recent shows typically loaded with jewelry, I found vendors practically giving away their product.  Granted their work was more of what is sometimes referred to as "assembled".  But I know what findings and beads cost, even low end beads and base metal findings.  So I don't see where these jewelers, who though they are selling more units than the rest of us, are actually making any money, especially if you add in the booth fee, travel time, meals, gas, etc.

I certainly wouldn't tell anyone else how to price their work.  Each individual has the right to decide what their time and creativity is worth.  But as I find more of these low priced jewelry makers at shows I can't help being concerned for "handmade" in general.  They not only do not value their own work, they are undercutting those of us who do.

In my last post I mentioned a young girl who called my silver pieces "real jewelry".  Some people understand the difference between handmade and hand assembled, and actually think about the time and creativity that goes into a truly handmade item.  Those that aren't aware need to be educated.  And craft show organizers and promoters can help by doing a better job of jurying and asking about the price range of peoples' work.

I don't expect the Walmart mentality to disappear.  I just wish people could leave it at home when they come to art and craft shows.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Selling REAL Jewelry

"This is real jewelry.  Not those store-bought pendants you just hang on a chain."  This is a quote from one of 3 young girls who stopped by my booth this past weekend to look at my fine silver pieces.  Though they didn't buy anything, it was so gratifying to know that they knew the difference.  I'm not certain everyone does.

This was not a very successful show for me and given that the traffic count was easily over 20,000 people, I couldn't help but wonder why I did so much better the last time I attended.   The question of what is handmade came up again as I left my booth in my friend Eva's capable hands and walked around to see how everyone else was doing. 

Crystal who makes "real" handmade bags.

                                   Becky who also makes "real" jewelry. 

About 8 or 10 booths away was a cluster of jewelry sellers, 5 or 6 booths almost in a row, selling pendants for $5 or $7 or the same bangle bracelet in different colors for $10.  I'd like to say that I can't compete with those prices.   But while several of them had people in their tents, it didn't look like they were selling a lot either.

This year on its 10th anniversary stART on the Street accepted 360 vendors, both with 10 x 10 booths and sidewalk tables.  That's over 100 more than last year.  The section of Park Ave. between Highland and Pleasant was completely filled and even included a farmer's market at one end.  As I walked up one side of the street it suddenly occurred to me that I really wasn't taking in anything.  Occasionally a painting would catch my eye but mostly I just browsed.  Between dodging people and the sameness that all the booths became after awhile, I never really focused on anything.

Many of the shows that I do have too many jewelers.  It's not often a problem as my steampunk usually stands out.  I had a corner booth so I was getting traffic from 2 sides.  I just had to put up something that would catch their eye.  So I did a little rearranging and put up a couple of bigger steampunk pieces right out front and some fancier silver pendants on the side.  Anyone who actually registered what they were looking at did stop and comment on the steampunk and the creativity that went into making my unique pieces.  Men in particular were fascinated with what I do with watch gears and sewing machine parts.  And everyone liked the expensive pieces but no one was willing or able to buy them. 

At other shows I encourage people to come in and try something on.  It sometimes leads to a sale. This wasn't an option at stART as we were also very close to one of the stages that featured some very loud repetitive heavy metal type music that made it difficult to hear.   Words don't sound very encouraging when they're shouted.

For me the show wasn't a loss.  Just disappointing.  While the organizers of stART probably did very well financially on their 10th anniversary, adding 100 vendors didn't do the artisans any favors.

You can read a more detailed review for vendors in my side pages.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sneak Peak at My Goldie Bronze

While I love working with Art Clay Silver, there are several other types of metal clay on the market that I have been anxious to try. I like the look of bronze but previously bronze clay products were either too yellow or too pink for my taste.  Just recently Goldie Bronze became available in the U.S.  Developed by Waldo Ilowiecki of Poland, Goldie Bronze is a dream to work with, has a short firing time, and finishes to a nice soft golden color.

When I say it became available recently, I mean within the last month.  And there's only 1 US distributor and she was out when I placed my order.  So I had to wait.

Goldie Bronze, like several other base metal clays on the market, comes in powdered form and has to be mixed with water.  This is actually a great idea since it gives unused clay a longer shelf life.  
My first reaction was that the clay has a totally different feel from the silver clay--softer and more silky.  It dries less quickly so I have a lot of time to change my mind if I don't like something and want a "do over".  

While silver clay fires for 2 hours at 1650 degrees, bronze fires at a lower temp.  But the process for firing bronze clay is a bit more complicated.  I needed to purchase a metal pan and coconut carbon.  The dried pieces are fired on top of the carbon at 662 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then you bury it in about 1/2" of more carbon and fire it for 40 minutes at 1508 degrees.  You can take it out of the kiln hot if you don't want to wait for it to completely cool down.  

My first surprise was after the first firing.  The pieces were completely black.  Then after the 2nd firing they came out these lovely colors but gritty to the touch.

But after cleaning and polishing the end result is a lovely golden color.

 I've only had time to make a few pieces but we'll be showing them off for the first time at the Mattoon Street Festival this weekend in Springfield.  Stop by for the arts and crafts and take a tour of the brownstones or their gardens.

More news about Jansjems--
Jansjems jewelry is now also available at the Red Lion Inn Gift Shop in Stockbridge, MA.  If you're from the Berkshires or visiting the area, stop by and check out this wonderful gift shop.  Jayne Church has filled it with a wonderful variety of locally made artisan products.

There is also a small selection of jewelry at Sawmill River Artsa gift shop you can find next to the Bookmill in Montague, MA.

And, of course, The Daylily in the center of South Deerfeld still carries our work.

The fall craft fair season starts in earnest for us this weekend. Visit our website for a complete list of upcoming shows.