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Designer's jewelry Production

I recently had a designer contact me to make her designs in jewelry.
She has several shows a year and needs small production. I am meeting
with her this week and would like some advice on what questions I
need to ask her? A contract? An agreement? Usual percentage? Do I
supply the metals and stones, does she? As you can tell I’ve never
dealt with a designer. I do my own designs and lots of repair and
restoration. I would appreciate any pointers or “absolutely don’t to
this” advice…Charolette

    I recently had a designer contact me to make her designs in
jewelry. She has several shows a year and needs small production. I
am meeting with her this week and would like some advice on what
questions I need to ask her? 

Hello Charlotte;

I’ve had a little experience with designers, lots of them wannabees.
Be careful. I’ve lost considerable money on “research and
development” when it turns out these individuals don’t know enough
about jewelry design to come up with a product that is actually
do-able. Better build in a fee, collected up front, to be applied
to the future bill, to cover yourself for the time you will spend
re-designing the pieces for production. I now request $500 US up
front before any work is done. It’s non-refundable. If they’re
serious, they won’t have a problem with this. You might also ask
for references from other vendors who’ve done business with them to
make sure they will be paying customers and to find out if they know
what they’re doing and understand what are acceptable production
quality standards. You don’t need people who nit-pick about things
that can’t be helped under the circumstances of their design
constraints. Then keep careful track of the time you spend
engineering the design to actually start production. I charge
initial production costs, then it’s time and materials from there on.
Make absolutely sure that you see the proposed designs before you
quote any prices whatsoever. I’ve had “designers” trying to snooker
me into production work on idiotic designs that they’ve run by other
manufacturers who’ve given them prices they didn’t like. When I’ve
seen (or been given hints about) the designs, they’ve turned out to
be ridiculously difficult and time consuming. Not only do some
"designers" have no clue about how to design jewelry, they aren’t
realistic about what it should cost to produce it either. And
please, those of you for whom I’ve done work, this is not about you,
it’s about some others who I’ve had to blow off. If I’ve done work
for you, we’re OK.

David L. Huffman

Hey Charolette,

I work on occasion with a painter who wants metal parts done for her
paintings in gold, silver and bronze. So I guess my situation is
kinda like yours. Anyway there are a few things that you need to
think about.

  1. Has this person seen your work? You need to show the level of
    work you do so it would be a good idea to have a few pieces or
    photos of pieces with you.

  2. Do you know the volume of work that will be asked of you? If you
    specialize in hand made jewellery and do not have any experience in
    production jewellery you should ask yourself this question. You
    should think whether you’ll be able to handle the amount of work
    asked of you in a given time. If not then be honest. It’s better to
    say that you need more time up front than to promise a delivery date
    and then go back on your word.

  3. You have to consider that a designer will have to sell retail so
    your work will have to be priced accordingly. Furthermore you’ll
    have to think whether this work is really worth your time and
    effort. There are some jobs that really aren’t worth doing if the
    production run is very limited and the prices very low.

  4. Last but not least, be honest. Say what’s on your mind and just
    be yourself. You’re not applying for a job. This person has come to
    you (right?). Therefore be friendly and relaxed. If there’s
    something you don’t agree with then say it. I found in the past that
    because I wanted a job very badly I would not say things that
    bothered me and I ended up paying for it.

Anyway hope that helps. I hope I didn’t sound too morbid.

Lee Lyssimachou
Lee Feenix Art Workshop

This is one of those ‘no one right way’ type of questions. I have a
very good (at least I think) working relationship with a designer
that I do repairs and production work for. Usually she supplies the
materials, but I am always happy to use my own, or supply things when
it is necessary or expedient. Just make sure you keep track of who
supplies what for the billing. Also, be prepared for some give and
take, especially at the beginning. Not everything will be perfect
right out of the gate. It took me a while to adjust my finishing
style to suit her needs. No, we don’t have a contract. I have an
established hourly rate for work not included in a trade price list.
The price list is based on that rate, as well. The biggest problem I
have with the whole situation is getting her work out on a timely
basis when it keeps getting crunched up between the jobs I am
obligated to do with my work situation. Try to make sure
expectations and realities are dealt with as much as possible up
front, and remain flexible as much as possible.

Hope this helps. Jim