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Designing jewelry for success


Hello All, I have been a jeweler for 15-20 years and on my own for 10
of those and I am not able to make it. I have great designs, but not
a great market and I am a single mom of an 18 month old. I was
wondering if any of you know how to sell your designs and not have to
make and sell the jewelry.

I need to work from home. Any ideas are welcome.

Thank you! -Ann Madland


Dear Ann

I am a stay-at-home father and homemaker for my wife who teaches
kindergarten, for our six year old daughter in first grade, and for
my wife’s sister who does a little to help but not much.

I did not become that way by choice… I had been an aerospace
engineer with 15 years of software design experience who was laid off
back in 2005. I have not been able to find work of any kind since
that time, even working at home, believe me, I have tried for 4
years. But now we are trapped in a rural area about 50 miles away
from any town and 300 miles away from any city, with no other place
for my wife to go to be a teacher, and so we stay and make the best
of it.

I am fortunate because I find no shame in my current occupation as my
wife’s batman, I do my very best in doing a quality job of cooking
and cleaning and caring after my wife and daughter day and night,
because with my engineering career gone it is the only remaining
purpose left in my life. Sometimes I have good days with it, and
sometimes I have very bad days with it, as witness a previous letter
on Ganoksin from me. I do see a shrink and take psychiatric
medication daily for lifelong dysthymia and major depression.

Because I work hard at the only role I have available, I feel no
guilt at all in devoting 12 hours of my time per week to developing
new skills as a possible silversmith and jeweler. My wife and my
child are my only reasons for staying alive these days, but perhaps
maybe someday the horse may yet sing and I can have both family and
a career again.

The point I am making is this: there is no way in the Great Recession
economy for a single parent with a child to thrive independently. You
need to either return to your parents or your other relations, or
find some type of communal arrangement with others that will
guarantee yourself and your child at least room and board in exchange
for half of your labor. That way you will always have time for your
child, which is something your child will desperately need at his or
her present age.

What you should do with the other half of your labor is up to you,
some ideas…

  1. If your ability to design really is that good, I would suggest
    you write a book about the entry level principles of jewelry design,
    with some of your designs as examples, putting the design together
    step by step with the decisions you made.

  2. Another idea, if you have the interpersonal connections, is to
    make alliances with crafters who have the potential to execute well
    but who don’t have enough artistic sense to save thier own lives and
    are willing to admit it. I know for a fact that I am one such person.
    People like me could be willing to enter into an exclusive licensing
    agreement for original artwork from you where I pay you royalties by
    the piece.

If there is one like me then there have to be others.

  1. Combine approaches 1 and 2 and make a book with a CD of about 50
    designs that are royalty free, have the book priced at about $50 to
    $75 each. Then you get your design royalty back in the form of a
    steady check from your publisher.

I recommend you buy or obtain some CAD/CAM software, ideally open
source, and format your designs using that software.

Luck to you,
Andrew Jonathan Fine

I was wondering if any of you know how to sell your designs and not
have to make and sell the jewelry. 

That seems to be a huge question with no simple answer, due to all
the variables. It depends on what jewellery you are making, and what
kind of market you are trying to sell it to. If you’re not able to
make it, then you’ve not yet found the right market for what you are
making (which is what you basically said in your post), or you need
to change what you are making (perhaps only slightly), to fit in with
what people want to buy. I initially wanted to just make what I
wanted to make, and try to find a market for it, but I’m having much
more success making what people ask me to make - but you can still
put your twist on it because you’re the designer.

Personally, I’ve just recently gone from wanting to sell my
jewellery, and wondering how to go about it, to having commissions
coming out of my ears! My husband and I are members of a photography
forum and we went away to a convention recently. I made the
organisers of the event a pair of DSLR camera cufflinks each for the
men and a contemporary circle pendant set with one stone for the lady
involved. These were presented to them by my husband at the final
meeting of the convention, and they were passed around the room for
people to see, by their new owners. Since then, I have had about
eight orders (with more promised) for the cufflinks from other forum
members, and a commission to make one chap’s wife a Christmas
present. A new friend I made at the weekend has asked me to make her
a thumb ring, and her husband is secretly commissioning me to make
her a necklace for her birthday, as she loves one particular necklace
she’s seen on my website. One chap who wants cufflinks has paid in
full for a pair set with emeralds - he LOVES green! - and has also
asked me to come up with something for his wife for Christmas - money
no object apparently. There are others on the forum who are “private
messaging” me about making them something too.

Also, my husband recently took some of my pieces into his work to
try to sell them for me. From that, I have had eight commissions and
am continuing to get more. Each time he delivers a piece to a
customer, other people see it and admire it and I get more orders. I
know you say you’re a single mom, but you may know someone who works
for a company with lots of people, who may be willing to give you a
bit of a hand with marketing in the initial stages. An early
commission went a bit pear shaped, partly due to my husband making
decisions on my behalf, but now I get their email addresses and/or
phone numbers, and deal with them directly apart from them showing
initial interest, paying 50% deposit (if it’s cash, in which case
Darren collects it for me), and him delivering the final item to them
and collecting the remainder of the money (again if in cash).

I also have one good friend and two nieces who have all asked me to
make their wedding rings - that’s seven rings in all, as one of my
nieces wants two wedding rings, one stone set and the other plain
for working - she’s a nurse.

So in my case, for not much work at all in the way of marketing,
I’ve got plenty of work to keep me busy for a while, and it seems to
be self perpetuating. Perhaps something similar could work for you?
Sorry to ramble, but they’re just examples of how things can
snowball from not much effort, if people really like what you’re
making. Otherwise, have you thought of approaching some independent
jewellers/ galleries who may wish to take your work and sell it on
your behalf? Put together a nice range of related, but different
pieces, visit a few outlets you really like, which you think might
fit your jewellery.

Or have I completely misunderstood what you were asking? You’ve been
at it for a lot longer than I have, so forgive the above ramblings
if I’ve missed the point entirely. Are you wanting to find a
manufacture to manufacture your designs?



For many years I wrote articles for Lapidary Journal, some were
diverted to Step by Step Bead then Step by Step Wire… then I
discovered that my patterns were once again being offered by the
company, online individually with all funds going to them. Hmmm. I
didn’t remember reading about electronic rights but since you signed
a new contract often, it must have in there and I didn’t notice.
What could I do. Well, Jon came up with the answer, “stop sending in
articles.” Well, with a change of editors, my series of using
figural lampwork beads in amulet bags, as a reason to but and
actually use them and not put them in tissue and store them in a box
to take out once in a while and fondle… was stopped. OK, I could
handle not sending in any more.

On the local front, FMG was using some of my work for their print
adv and I was getting calls from customers who wanted…the
patterns. Or, kits. I had made a limited run of 18 of an amulet bag
in artistic wire, beads, roses. and the guys at Soft Flex sold those
for me.

When I did a show at the local art guild, I was approached with the
request for me to teach a class in wire crochet. She already had 6
people, the venue and had a design in mind, a simple amulet bag in
double crochet. This is such an easy pattern, they don’t need me, i
could write it on a postage stamp! They still want a class.

So, now i guess I am teaching, i’ve done it before, at 10.00 a
person. this class i was told would be much more than that…(?)
and I don’t feel badly about more wire crochet being out there in the
sales area, my cancer is acting up and I honestly don’t know if shows
are in my future. I had done none for a couple of years when i first
went in hospice. course i was kicked out for not dying fast
enough… now the rule is i can’t do a show alone. one time with me
face down on my table, a jade stuck to my forehead, they over react.
I’m told the jade teardrop was very tasteful and i talked them out of

so, teaching and kits are my future of success i hope…