Independent Jeweler in Today's Marketplace


You didn’t really say how you are starting out, but here is my

I started 5 years ago and am self taught. This is the first year I
will make a small profit. I do not own a store or a wholesale
operation. I create jewelry and try to market it.

I started out trying to pattern after a couple of local independents
who had been in the business longer than me. They were doing art
fairs so I thought that was the thing to do. I found the shows to be
a poor business risk FOR ME. I don’t mean this to be an affront to
anyone who enjoys them and is doing well with them.

The bottom line is that I did the art fairs for several years and
operated on credit cards doing them. I would never do that again. If
I could start again, I would start smaller and closer to home (I was
going to fairs as far as two states away), only venturing farther out
as the business began to pay for itself. I was under the assumption
that I had to do the shows for several years for them to become
profitable as I built up my clientele, etc. and that I just had to
bear the debt in the meantime. The truth, FOR ME, is that the shows
I did were not paying off for me or for other artists who had been in
the business a long time. I know a lot of others were not making a
profit because we would all commiserate about the poor traffic. When
other artists would tell me that they covered their expenses I would
often inquire what that meant and they would reply that they had
covered their booth fee. The booth fee was one of the smallest
expenses we had. Other expenses: credit card fees, cost of goods
sold, jury fees for that show and for shows you didn’t get into,
photographic/jury slide expense, gasoline, motels, mosquito
repellent, fans, rain slickers, tent, banners, displays, lights,
parking expenses, missed work (I have a part time job) both for me
and my husband, other rained out shows I had to cover the expense of,
wear and tear on our automobile, meals out, production time missed,
and I can continue ad nauseum to name reasons why FOR ME art shows
are not a good business risk.

This may not apply to your situation, but I wish someone had told me
this when I started out. Quite a few other artists have admitted to
me that they were financing their shows on credit cards and that
their debt was sizable.

J. S. (Sue) Ellington

I am doing my first crafts show on Labor Day. It will take place
in a local church and the event is being promoted as an arts &
crafts show. I'm not sure that this is the venue I am seeking but
I'll learn what I can from it and practice connecting with

One of my first crafts shows (years ago…) was in a fire hall in a
country setting. My multimetal jewelry is very affordable, but I had
very few sales. Most potential customers looked at it without

Not long thereafter, I did a juried show in an upscale setting and
was swamped with customers and sales for four solid hours, beginning
even before I got set up.

Nowadays, I only sell in a local gallery and my friends from church
(and the other gallery members) are among my best customers.

This is all to emphasize that you do need to try different venues to
find the niches that are best for you. I miss the customer contact
of art/craft fairs, but I don’t miss the set-up stuff and weather

The state of your local economy also can greatly affect sales. But,
connecting with customers is always a good idea (and fun!).

Judy Bjorkman
Gallery Forty-One