Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Niche discovery


#1

At this young point in my career as a self-taught, generalist,
“wha-choo!,” lately I’ve been ruminating over the issue of finding a
"niche"–and because I’m not finding any answers on my own, it just
dawned me to throw the question out to the group.

As a jeweler/jewelry artist/x-smith/etc., have you found and do you
actively work what you consider to be a niche? If so, how long did it
take to develop said niche? Is it something you fell into
immediately, or something you discovered after a lot–perhaps
years–of trial and error?

I wonder if discovery of a niche comes easier to one who has been
exposed to art school and its various stimuli, or after years of
working in the field in a particular technique?

If you’ve found a niche, has it turned out to be successful for you
in terms of sales and business development (this can be anything from
Tiffany to Etsy), recognition in your field for the style/technique,
etc. [with regard to the recognition issue, I guess somebody like
Todd Reed and his signature style of working with rough diamonds
comes to mind off the top of my head.]

Just a random grouping of (related) questions-if you can think of
anything else relevant, please do address it. I’d like to know the
thoughts of others as I try to figure some things out for myself.

Thanks in advance.
Tamra Gentry
http://gentrydesignco.typepad.com


#2

I think the niche came from my own interests since college. I also
found that many people were selling cheap jewelry as in lasts maybe a
year or a month and wanted more. They like meeting the artist and
seeing things made for them that will last to be handed down through
their families.

the market is wide open it is a hard life that physically I am
trying to get into doing. Celtic festivals Irish Festivals Scottish
Festivals no funny cloths to wear and there is always beer at work
lol

So I make celtic jewelry and my own stuff like braided cokers and SS
pendants for the young crowd for 10-20 dollars but I do sell even in
bad years 100-150 dollar necklaces. My friend saw a local newscaster
doing the news report in one of my necklaces lol

so I found my niche through hobbies and luck someone at the
Pittsburgh Irish Festival told me to apply to shows in ohio alone
there are over 30 shows and even if we all showed up we would not be
incompetition because we would all have our own styles and items. I
do not see other jewelers as competition I just go and enjoy the
shows and not worry after my entrance fee is in my pocket which is
usually friday night.

then sat and sun are gravy

Last year worst year I went to keep my spot in the show and still
profited 1500 dollars for 3 days

I studied the shows and the bigger shows can gain you 500-10000 a
weekend I have heard I want to prove that !!

Until I get a car I cannot enter more than Pittsburgh. My goals this
year are a studio shed so I can work and a car no sure how I will get
either but I never give up. As soon as I get a car I can send my
portfolio of work with I WILL FILL IN LAST MINUTE. MY stock is small
I fit everything I need in a VW bug atm and they supply the tables
chairs and electric and tent or building.

so email me if you want the links to the festival lists in the US
and you will need vendors insurance I found the cheapest online
available so just ask I love to help Orchadians have been so kind to
me!!

Teri


#3

The first question is how do you define niche? In my book, just being
a jeweler who makes what they sell qualifies as being in a niche. But
if you’re thinking I need to be a jeweler who has a quirky product
(oh say nose rings for dogs) then you are simply going to have to
come up with some ideas on your own because if anyone already has one
of those (maybe it’s earrings for cats), they’re not going to help
you find out how good it is for them. And then there are those that
sell to a smaller, targeted (niche) audience: gays, people with curly
hair only, Hispanics, etc. Some of that is determined by where you
are located (or how you market yourself). And then there are people
like me who have a number of niches: 1) targets people who like hand
crafted products, 2) targets the gay community (although by no means
exclusively) 3) targets upper middle class customers, 4) targets
people interested in extremely high quality gem materials, 5) targets
people with a good sense of humor. Probably I have a few other niches
in there too. What I don’t target is the mass production market, or
those people who want that. So you can say to yourself I’m only going
to target the Hispanic community, but you will then have to adapt
your style and what you are selling to that particular community. In
my book it’s better to just develop your own sense of style and then
see which community it appeals the most to. Then go after that one
and eventually it will become your niche.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com


#4
have you found and do you actively work what you consider to be a
niche? 

Yes

I wonder if discovery of a niche comes easier to one who has been
exposed to art school and its various stimuli, or after years of
working in the field in a particular technique? 

‘The World’ is stimulating. I’m not an academic and I’ll apologize
for ruffled feathers in advance but I don’t believe an institution is
going to bestow upon anybody that certain ‘thing’ that makes you
different in a superior way, simply by virtue of having attended the
institution. Neither is a lifetime spent at an endeavor going to
automatically qualify you as a [____] (fill in with your favorite
goal).

Both can help but its what’s inside that counts.

You can try to pick a niche or the niche sometimes picks you. Its
like buying a puppy.


#5
In my book it's better to just develop your own sense of style 

I agree…life expereince, technical ability, resources at
hand…all this plotted over time will result in your particular
niche. Take it where it goes, live, learn, explore and fail, its all
part of the process.

P@
whos niche is working in stainless… :wink:


#6

Tamra,

Discovering a niche was an accident for me. I had no formal art
training until late in life. My only connection to the art world was
the joy of visiting a museum. By chance I became a travel manager for
a large corporation which required that I communicate quickly with
company employees all around the world. This meant learning the
airport codes developed by the airlines for directing passengers and
luggage to the correct destination.

In one of my first art classes the final project was to make a
record of a joyful event from a 5" x 7" sheet of sterling. I made a
necklace of airport codes where I had celebrated with friends and
traveled with family. So many people complimented my necklace that I
began a small business. Perhaps I am an accidental artist.

Keep searching. It’s a wonderful journey!

Mary A.
Chief Design Officer
www.jewelryforthejourney.com


#7

I’m not looking for any marketing secrets or strategies.

I think maybe I used the wrong word. Though I took niche to mean
"specialized market" (which is how Webster’s Online defines it), I
think what I really meant is “specialty area of work”–financial
reference to “niche” being secondary for my question.

What I simply want to know is, if you are a “guru” in, say,
granulation (e.g., Giovanni Corvaja or Elizabeth Gaultieri), mokume
gane (e.g., Jim Binnion, Steve Midgett, etc.), building intricate
story pieces with a million movable parts (e.g., Rhonda Storm), raw
diamond setting, etc. [and none of these people have to respond to
this-I’m just pulling names/areas off the top of my head]-how did you
come into doing that “thing.” How long did it take you to figure out
that’s what you want to do? Did you even want to do it? And,
because that thing doesn’t necessarily translate into marketability
with regards to what customers like/want, has it turned into
something that’s marketable/profitable for you, etc. [I don’t need specifics on the profitability thing-again, I’m not after secrets.]
That’s all.

I ask the question because as a jeweler I am a generalist. I can do
many different things, and many of those things I can do well. [Still
have a ways to go in terms of learning, but that’s a given and is not
the point.] Because I can do so many different things, I’m finding it
really hard to focus on one particular area to develop further as “my
area” that I can take and put my own signature on. The lack of focus
from being a generalist is a little frustrating. I feel like I “hop
around too much” with my broad interests and the amount of stuff
still left to learn.

But, perhaps I’m expecting this “falling into my niche” thing to
happen too quickly-maybe this is something that happens over time?
I’ve only been doing this whole-hog since 2006; but, I feel that
perhaps I should have hit “it” by now. I don’t particularly care for
this “wandering” that I’m doing. [How I feel is quite in line with my
Myers-Briggs personality profile for those of you familiar with the
MB-I’m an INTJ.we like nice, tidy, logical, orderly progressions,
Plan B’s, etc.-uncertainty makes (some of) us crazy.]

So, I hope this clarifies things a little. Sure, the ultimate goal
would be to find a specialized area that ends up doing well in terms
of sales, but I’m just trying to figure out how you find those
specialized areas/how they find you to begin with. I hope that makes
sense.

Thanks for all of the responses so far.

Tamra
http://gentrydesignco.typepad.com


#8

Hi Tamra,

I don't particularly care for this "wandering" that I'm doing. 

I’ve had this same feeling of not being able to see a distinctive
style in what I’m making. However, a friend said that he definitely
sees my work as having such a distinctive style. But to me, something
pops into my head and I just make it, with one thing having no
connection to any previous pieces or pieces to come.

However, when looking at your work, you do have some lovely series of
work: your Lei series and F-series are beautiful. Perhaps developing
these further will help find your niche if you haven’t found it
already.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk


#9

I asked a similar question on Orchid a couple of years ago and one
of the answers I remember was that just by limiting yourself to a
couple of techniques, boom, you have your “look.”

I think many people fall into their look because they’re only good
at certain things. You’re skilled in a wide variety of techniques,
meaning you actually have to choose.

You’ve got the technical part, somehow you need to forcibly narrow
it down to:

  • these are the techniques I’m going to focus on

or

  • these are the ideas, artistically, that I’m going to explore

Constraints = creativity.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#10
I ask the question because as a jeweler I am a generalist. I can
do many different things, and many of those things I can do well 

So perhaps that IS your niche. I fall into that category and have
done quite well with it. My work covers a huge range of territory
from very classic designs to things that are whacky and possibly
unique to me. While I have a certain, locally recognizable look to a
lot of my work, I will try just about anything (if for no other
reason than that I get bored otherwise). I do a version of mokume
gane. Most of the more serious mokume people would be aghast at how I
do it, but it works for me and I make it a part of my wedding band,
earring and pin lines. But then I do a lot of other things too. So
what? I do cast stuff, hand built stuff, textured stuff, plain stuff,
wiry stuff, solid stuff, geometrical stuff, asymmetrical stuff, you
name it. I routinely get people in who ask how many artists are
making my work. But I’d rather be doing this than anything else. The
idea of (and I apologize to all you specialists out there) doing one
type of thing only for the rest of my life would drive me completely
bonkers. I’m sure it works for some, but not for me!

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
www.spirerjewelers.com


#11

Hello Tamra,

I don’t have too much experience to talk about all the different
subjects on this forum. I am just starting my workshop at home, I
live in Costa Rica soI have lots of problems trying to get my tools
and stuff, also there are not too many choices to go to a proper
jewelry school and lately I’ve been dealing with a really difficult
teacher. I do wonder about that “thing” that made companies like
Tifanny’s famous but what I have noticed after hearing so many
stories that in some moment of their lives that people felt in love
or got obsess with something in particular. My only advise is that
you find out of all those things what makes you happy or you like
the most, it doesn’t matter if you are not the best at it you will
once you get into it, pay attention to that something and maybe it
will come to you soon.


#12

I think finding a niche should be something more personal, something
you surpass at or something you are especially interested in. It
could be a technique like mokume gane or threaded jewellery for
piercings or even a vast knowledge about a specific item, stone or
material you enjoy working with.

If you like something a little less mainstream, the chances are there
will be others out there that like it too. Once you start getting
noticed for your knowledge about a certain subject or style, thats
when you have foundyour niche!

All the best,
Jon


#13

Tamra, having seen a little of your work (only in photos, I wish for
real) I find it immediately recognisable.

I don’t think there’s a technique involved in that but a style, a
feeling to what you do; particularly the all or mostly metal pieces.
I don;t think that’s to do with the way you make them, but rather to
do with what you make. Um. It has a feeling of balance; deceptive
simplicity; harmony. I imagine that if you tried too hard to define
what it is you do to make it your style you would somehow spoil the
process ;).

And I think, despite your INTJ personality, you shouldn’t let
yourself get too rigid about it; it looks to me as if it’s all
falling into place quite nicely. Some stuff you just can’t force.

sophie
www.duckduckgoosetuff.co.uk


#14

Read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0449214923/theganoksinpr-20


#15

I liked your question, and also the various answers! I will add that
art school, or any school will not give you a niche or style- or you
hope not in any case (smile). The benefits to formal education in the
arts is that meaning takes precedence over materials and techniques–
your question is always “what do I want to say?”. For some people,
school is the beginning of a lifetime of discovery and if you limit
yourself to a style or niche forever- you will miss out on
possibilities. However, I agree with the person who pointed out-
constraints = creativity -you can limit your material or technical
choices within certain projects to free up your mind for design.

I do not produce jewelry yet. I am a sculptor by training, but I am
setting up a tiny studio with the little space that I have and want
to explore jewelry. I have always loved metalwork, but I am not
familiar with many jewelry techniques yet. This forum has been great
while setting up my studio! Thanks everyone, and thanks Tamra for
the good discussion.

Best
Catherine


#16

Tamra, beware the dangers of becoming a One Trick Pony, because the
market is always changing. You might hit upon something great only to
find it peters out after awhile and then what do you do? If you want
to focus on something it’d be wise to have something else going for
you too.

I really enjoy the challenge of a three stone ring. Its one of the
hardest things to pull off well, because if its not just right it
looks like hell. It pays nicely too. But if all I did was 3stoners
I’d be out of business, because the market segment is kinda small,
not that many people will pay 2-3K for just a mounting, but those
that do make it worthwhile to pursue. In the meantime I do almost
everything else presented to me. So I get my personal satisfaction
now and then and I get a (somewhat) steady income. And I’m never
bored.


#17

Tamara:

I am an ISTJ so I understand where you are coming from but I think
you are referring to two different things (how did you come into
doing it?) ie,: the “style” of jewelery you produce, and the two,
“successfully marketing your style to your niche market” so here goes
for both…I have been doing jewelry part time for about 4 years. At
about the 3 year mark I started wondering when my “style” was going
to emerge. I stressed out about it A LOT. Then something strange
happened, I stopped worrying. I told myself that I was learning this
new craft and that I should be focused on the “learning” part first.
That’s when it happened…a style emerged and I started figuring out
how to market it. Heck, I am just now figuring out both! I talked
with other artist friends of mine who paint and do pottery and they
all said it took them YEARS to develop their own style and figure out
their niche. One of them said it took her 9 years to figure it out!

FWIW. You’re right in that whatever “style” you produce doesn’t
always translate to marketability. Todd Reed told me years ago at an
ACC show that he had been in the jewelery trade for about 7 years
before he really started having his work widely noticed. At that
point you have a few options, stick to YOUR “style” and keep
marketing to your niche or change your style to something you think
is more marketable if it’s money that you’re after. And if it’s fame
you’re after, don’t forget it’s possible to have fame without the
fortune part.

Good luck to ya!
R/
Kennedi


#18

My Niche found me, quite by surprise. I make mostly Insect Jewelry,
and became involved when I made my first Dragonfly and was fascinated
by the challenge of the intricate forms, and the variety of insect
forms in general. It seemed like there was a whole world of insects
waiting to be replicated as silver jewelry. I love the research
involved in figuring out what differentiates one insect form from
another, and what "line’ or “curve” actually captures their essential
form. It led me to learning how to “spread” insects and frame them,
which I do with many of the preserved insects I use as models. I do
it because I get great pleasure from it.

However, that doesn’t guarantee that other people (potential buyers)
feel the same way. I often get the -“your pieces are beautiful, but
ugh! who wants to wear a bug, from even my closest friends”. So far
that hasn’t deterred me. Fortunately, this is a second career for
me, and I am not at it full time to make a living, so I can indulge
myself to some degree. However, I am always looking for new and
creative ways to make or incorporate my bugs into jewelry. There are
a number of other insect makers out there, and interestingly, we
each have a different approach to our ‘vision’ and each make
wonderful jewelry.

I think there is no substitute for becoming a truly experienced
"generalist". Then all things are open to you. As you work at
perfecting your craft, one of three things will happen. Either you
will find that the demand for a particular line pushes you in the
direction of a niche; or you are drawn to one technique or other,
with an intense need to become an expert in it, and that will
reflect itself in your work. The third is that you don’t get pulled
in any one direction, and that you become happier and more satisfied
by doing a variety of things. As someone said it may be less boring.

There is no guarantee that a ‘niche’ will set you apart from other
jewelry makers–there are too many of us, and so many wonderfully
expert and creative people among them, that any one of us will
always share the field with many others.

So my advice? Relax about the Niche Idea–let it happen, if it does.
Meanwhile continue perfecting your skills and follow your muse. And
best wishes for success in whatever you end up doing.

Sandra Buchholz
Elegant Insects Jewelry
http://www.elegantinsects.com


#19

I took a workshop with Libby Platus about 15 years ago. She
encouraged us to keep making our work and then set up and look at it.
She said we should begin to see a continuity or through line to the
work. She was teaching the workshop for artists working in a variety
of materials. I did use the idea of grouping the pieces and
developing a story around those pieces. I have found through the
years the ‘story groups’ meld one with another to create a flow, of
sorts. I hope that makes some sense.

Susan
Thornton Metals Studio