From a Retail Perspective, Episode 1
I first started creating jewelry when I was in high school, and sold simple beaded creations in a local shop in Hood River, Oregon. The shop owner was great at supporting my budding talent, and gently taught me about approach, as well as how to navigate price and to pay attention to what was and wasn’t selling. Although I had been creating adornment since childhood—usually in the form of paper clothes for my troll dolls—I was largely self-taught and working on intuition with little formal training. My craft had developed from cotton friendship bracelets and plastic lanyards, to hemp necklaces, followed by beaded jewelry.
It wasn’t until I went to university in Australia that I learned the ins-and-outs of jewelry design using precious metals and traditional metalsmithing techniques. It is a common refrain among metalsmiths, and one that I share--that first Introduction to Jewelry class hit me in the gut. When I realized I could take a flat sheet of metal, and create something three-dimensional, it was like magic. Alchemy. I was hooked, and immediately changed my major from photography to jewelry & metalsmithing.
After acquiring two creative degrees in metalsmithing and jewelry--the second one from the Oregon College of Art and Craft--I started working in a small jewelry boutique on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. This shop carries local and American jewelry, with a few international artists in the collection. It is a vibrant store with a great mix of customers--both regular and random. I absolutely love connecting customers with new jewelry, along with supporting small artists.
Throughout the years, I have sold my work to various shops on both wholesale and consignment tracks, as well as at art fairs and street fairs. My work has been published in a variety of books, as well as shown in exhibitions around the US and in Australia.
This series, From a Retail Perspective, is meant to give jewelry artists tips and tricks, from the perspective of the people selling their work. As with any profession, there are often minute details that you can only learn by diving in and experiencing them. As this series is being written one ‘episode’ at a time, I will attempt to start with the basics—from when you first decide to sell your jewelry—to the more involved aspects of being a jeweler. There may be some detours along the way. It will evolve organically, and I am hoping to eventually include interviews with shop owners and other artists from various disciplines.
Note: while this series is aimed at jewelers, art jewelers and metalsmiths, there will be many issues that are applicable to any type of artwork.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing more with you.
Note: The above is the opinion of the author, built from years of experience and discussions with customers, shop/gallery owners, and fellow artists. This is not meant to be a formal guide into how to run a business--there are plenty of people with degrees and successful business who have written those books.