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Just how hard is it to make a living selling your


Precedence: bulk

Elaine, I do not think you are at all wrong to say that it is a bit
on the difficult side. I personally feel it is better that our
students hear the truth up front and honest, even if it may come
over as a bit brutal. The ones who truly “have to” do this as an
artistic outlet or career choice will do it inspite of the obstacles
and will be the better for it. The ones who keep coming back inspite
of mild and sometimes not so mild efforts to discourage them are the
ones I look for. Without learning perseverance one does not make it
as a craftsperson. It is my way of helping to sorting out the
wannabes. The market place will work on the rest of us.



Precedence: bulk

I don’t think it is wrong to say it is on the difficult side, but
you should try to be encouraging about it at the same time. Of
course it depends on the students. Anyone with a little bit of
talent, a whole lot of drive and desire to work their tails off can
succeed in this business. Anyone with a lot of talent and the same
drive should do really well in this business. But if they are coming
in to this field thinking that working for themselves means they
won’t have to work very hard, they can forget about it.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140


Precedence: bulk

Well, this is it really , isn’t it, the difficulty in making a
living as an artist. If it was easy we would be not so special. One
thing I learned from one of the many people who have influenced me
through my career , Mike Croft, is that you can make the art into
anything you want. This was a profound statement to me, one of great
hope and loneliness. As I apprentice people I try to give a realistic
view of what I go through as a small business person and artist. With
the length of time I ask for from an apprentice it is not easy to
have them believe anything but the truth of the struggle to make a
living as a craftsperson. This view has tempered my teaching away
from just the craft into the business as an integrated part of the
lifestyle. One cannot exist with out the other. I believe this is not
a bad thing but, the necessary tension between the creative and
practical. This is the delineation between the academic, the hobbyist
and the entrepreneur. Sam Patania, Tucson


Precedence: bulk

Very! I guess not for everyone, and I guess definitions make a
difference. I ‘entered the trade’ about 26 years ago after a few
seasons of summer craft fairs while I was in college. I have since
made my living doing repairs and custom orders for the most part.
For some of that time I even had my own trade shop. Never again.
I’d love to make it ‘on my own’ with selling my own products, but so
far that has been only a sideline of varying success. With a soft
economy, any craftsperson is up against a tough haul to make it
exclusively on selling their wares. Jewelers in particular are one
of the groups facing increasing challenges and competition. The
economy is making people reluctant to spend, and when they do, price
is more of a factor than ever. That means imports from 3rd world
countries have an edge. Galleries and shows are overwhelmed with
competition. There are many fresh faces out there, so you always
have to have some special feature to get yourself noticed. This past
year, about 15% or so of our income was selling our products. This
year we hope to do better, but being realistic, probably won’t. Our
greatest successes so far have been finding some small specialty
niches, but it is easy to saturate those markets, so we have to keep
coming up with new ideas and new customers for those products. I
have found that when I get my stuff in front of the right audience,
it will sell. The trick is, getting it out there. With so much
competition, we have difficulty finding new galleries, or getting
into shows. It is also costly to gear up for shows in terms of
tents, displays and what not. For right now, if it weren’t for the
repair work, we would have to leave the jewelry work behind and head
off for another line of work. That would be difficult for me for 2
reasons. One, I don’t have anything else to fall back on, and would
be entry level in any other job. Not easy when you are closing in on
50. Two, I love what I do (though not always the circumstances I do
it under). I just can’t imagine not having the outlet for creative
thoughts. Jim in the mountains of NC, where winter keeps trying to
come back.


Precedence: bulk

Elaine, Over half of all new businesses fail in the first five years,
according to statistics from the Small Business Administration. That
means it’s more likely you’ll fail than succeed.

As you say, it’s not like water off a duck’s back, and it requires
more than talent or a good idea. It also requires more than hard
work. It requires money and good planning, and a healthy dollop of
luck. Even successful artists rarely got that way overnight! And
those are things most people with visions dancing in their heads
don’t want to hear. It’s “discouraging.” They want to be encouraged
to pursue their dream: damn the torpedos, full speed ahead! But
unless these are starry eyed adolescents, they should be able to
handle the reality that the money isn’t going to just fall off the
back of a truck.

I say, by all means, encourage your students to pursue their dream
–in a way that might lead to their achieving it. That means studying
marketing as well as metal, writing a business plan, or whatever
else it takes to figure out not just how to start a business, but how
to make money at it.

After 10 years of talking to successful artists, my take on it would
be “it’s not easy, but it can be done.” If your students find that
discouraging, I don’t hold out much hope of their success. They
don’t want to hear about how real people are doing it because it’s
harder than they envision? Definitely not heading for success.
Someone who has what it takes to succeed may be discouraged at first,
but then they’ll ask themselves, “So how can I learn all this stuff?
How can I make it work anyway?” They’ll find your advice extremely
valuable, since it will help them prepare to succeed – not just
encourage them to throw caution to the wind and plunge right in,
whether the venture has any chance of success or not. If they think
you’re discouraging, wait until they encounter the first customer
like those described by you all in our recent thread “worst things a
buyer has said to you”!

Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255


Precedence: bulk

Hi Elaine, You are not wrong, I think you are being honest and
realistic. Students should be encouraged on one hand but not set up
for unrealistic ideas of glamour on the other hand, much like
budding actors going to Hollywood. There are so many options in the
field of jewelry and an important aspect to consider and explore is
one’s own nature, what does one really want to be doing for a
living, and are these goals realistic. The students needs to have
honest advice on what is involved in actually working in the various
jewelry related jobs and has to be honest with themselves as to
whether or not they are suited for that job. You sound like a
caring teacher and guide, keep up the good work!

Marta in Sacramento