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The recession and us


#1

Hello Joy et al,

I changed the subject of this thread in order to address a comment
that Joy made about the recession. It’s been my observation that
artists of all ilks, but especially jewelry artists, are the
proverbial canaries in the mine when it comes to the fluctuations of
the economies in our respective countries. We feel the financial
pinch first and we recover from that pinch after everyone else has
already recovered. That, at its simplest, seems to be because
purchasing art, again especially jewels, requires discretionary
income and deep pockets in which to hold those monies. That income
disappears and the pockets become quite shallow during periods of
economic depression/recession. People pay for food, housing,
clothing during those times and refrain from the “luxury” items.

The one exception to that is the population of the very wealthy,
who, although their portfolios feel the pinch, are still able to
part with funds for objects that fall outside those that would be,
for most of us, described as necessities. I know this to be true,
because throughout this recession, my collectors have been steadfast
and constant, for which I continue to be extremely grateful. Their
world is a whole different world from mine, and I certainly can’t
predict that their support will continue, but, based on past
behaviour, my expectation is that it will.

Just sayin’,
Linda Kaye-Moses


#2

Hi all

I agree that the recession has done some serious damage to many
artists incomes. But I also think we as a society has changed our
tastes over the last 3 or 4 decades and fine jewelry is less in
vogue than in the past. Actually there can be a negative image to
much of what we used to value in jewelry and watches and the like
(think “blood diamonds”). All the cheap fake jewelry that has been
imported over the last decades haven’t helped either. Jo Haemer in
her email refers to Oregon tastes in jewelry but I have found that to
pretty much cover the whole country except for the “pockets” like she
refers to.

We as Americans are dressing down.

I also feel another major drain of discretionary money and that is
technology. My customers have tight budgets for the jewelry they
buy, but boy do they have the latest and greatest phone/ pad/laptop
with all the add on bells and whistles. Their monthly plan costs can
break many a budget. We used to see a young woman showing off an
engagement ring to her friends at a party, now they are all looking
up their emails.

Sam


#3

I know exactly where you are coming from in your previous post, Joy.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, as they say.

My family’s jewelry business began in northern New Hampshire in the
summer of 1972, in a tent at the base of Loon Mountain to be
specific. At first business was good, mainly supported by tourists
traveling the Kancamagus Highway. Then came winter and they kicked us
off of the bunny slope so we had to move indoors. We opened our first
brick and mortar store in the old Mad River Canoe Company building in
Campton that was owned by a friend of my Dad’s. It was on the only
road traveling from I-93 to Waterville Valley, on NH-49 right near
the intersection with route 175. Business was pretty good there too.
For a while.

It was during that formative time for my family’s business in the
early to mid 70’s that the paper mill in Lincoln closed and the Beebe
River plant scaled back big-time. Then came the Energy Crisis with
those mile-long gas lines (which we never had in the White
Mountains). People stopped coming up north for vacation at first
mainly because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get gas for
the trip back to Boston or Connecticut, or wherever. Within a year or
two they stopped coming up because they flat couldn’t afford it as
the recession was picking up a full head of steam nationwide.

As Joy pointed out, the locals have little need of expensive
jewelry. Essentially the way they look at it, if you can’t drive it,
eat it, ski on it, fish with it or shoot anything with it, then it’s
pretty much worthless. All jewelry does is be pretty, and that’s not
enough in the north country. Folks up there would spend big bucks on
a rifle, a pair of Rossi Stratos and bindings, a Ski-93 season pass
or a snow machine, but a pair of plain sterling wedding bands was
about all the jewelry most ever saw the need to own. Hard to make a
living with little more to work with than jewelry and locals,
especially during a recession. Am I singing your song, Joy?

That recession never really ended in northern New England, so my
folks ended up moving to Dallas, TX in 1980 and opened a store there.
Sounds like very little has changed. Which in northern New Hampshire
is no real surprise to me. Very little ever changes up there.

I love New Hampshire and still consider it to be my real home.
Unfortunately, there is little chance I will ever be able to move
back until I retire, there just isn’t a real jewelry industry there,
north of Portsmouth or Nashua at any rate (if I have to live in a
flat-land city, it’s gotta be a warm one), and my chosen lifestyle
won’t allow me to be a starving artist. I certainly would never be
able to achieve my life-long dream of owning a lake house on Squam
Lake by running a retail jewelry store in Littleton. Living and
working in Durham, NC however puts that dream within reach.

It’s all about priorities. What’s most important. I think it’s safe
to say that for the vast majority of us that work with metal for a
living, we aren’t doing it to get rich, we do it because we love it.
In my case, I almost have no choice. I can’t imagine having a job in
which I watch the clock, waiting for quitting time or spending time
figuring out how to maximize my vacation time. For me, the priority
is working metal. Making a decent living above survival levels is a
close second and where I do it is secondary or even tertiary to
those. The price I pay is that I only get to New Hampshire and Maine
once every few years. The good part of that is that unlike everywhere
I’ve ever lived or visited, so little changes from decade to decade
that after a day or two, it feels like I never left. Twin Mountain
looks pretty much the same as it did when my wife and I were dating
and working at the Mount Washington Hotel in the summer of 1977
(somebody in the family had to have a real job, that summer it was my
turn).

The damnable thing about it is that the thought processes of the
people that live there, the simple, earthy way of life, the things
that make it such a wonderful place to live, are the very things that
prevent me from living there.

I’m not 100% happy with the trade-offs of my situation, but all in
all, I’m not complaining. North Carolina isn’t New Hampshire, but
it’s a heck of a lot closer both geographically and topographically
than Dallas is, and there’s money here. There are also a lot of
people here that appreciate what we all do enough to actually pay for
it. We all are faced with trade-offs, the trick is to make the
choices that make the trade-offs we have to accept fit with our
priorities. Not an easy balance sometimes.

One day, I’ll see that “Bienvenue au New Hampshire” sign for the
very last time as I make my way back home. I just hope it’s not from
the back of a hearse.

Dave Phelps


#4

Hi all

boy do they have the latest and greatest phone/ pad/laptop >with
all the add on bells and whistles. Their monthly plan costs can
break many a budget. 

HELL YEAH.

The kids I teach spend so much on their phone plan $700 a year plus
add in cost of phone that in a couple of years they could put down a
deposit on a car. But are on their phone 24/7. So they end up with an
out of date phone and no car or jewellery. So they buy really cheap
and nasty jewellery that of course does not last. What I find strange
is they do not look after their phones and most of their screens are
cracked. They expect their parents to but them another one.

SO HOW DO WE EDUCATE THESE KIDS THAT QUALITY JEWELLERY LASTS AND IS
WORTH THE MONEY?

Richard


#5

Talking about different regions of the US having their own issues.
My wife and I have been kicking around the idea of moving to
Colorado, we love the mountains and one of our sons lives out there.
Just to get a general feeling of the business climate, I asked a
half dozen people I know, a mix of goldsmiths, stone cutters and
retail jewelers in CO what business is like and what they feel our
prospects might be? They said the problem with Colorado is that so
many people love it out there and want to live there that there is a
steady stream of jewelry types relocating to the area. They feel
like it’s a little over saturated with talent. One guy said that his
repair charges are about half of what they were in Kansas, and
people still walk because of price. Others have said that there is
always work if you do good work, but it’s harder. The responses were
interesting, I hadn’t really thought of the more jewelers per capita
issue.

Mark


#6

Hello David, I’m probably the age of your parents. I started with my
(now deceased and ex) husband a small jewelry business that went
through all the changes and challenges you have so well expressed in
your letter. The only difference between your situation and mine is
that I have stayed in this tourist area, raised my three children,
and relied solely on my jewelry business as my income. The area
where I am from is Door County, Wisconsin, and for those of us who
live here, we consider this to be exceptionally blessed area in
terms of beauty and the artists who are attracted to live and work
here. Things have changed, and I would never recommend to anyone
doing the same that I did in 1969 when I first moved up here.
However, because of the smallness of the year round community, my
children to go to a wonderful school system and receive many
advantages that I don’t think they would have been able to enjoy if
I had moved to a metro area. I also find the relative security of
living in this area where everyone knows each other as being another
benefit of being here. I ran my business as a single stay at home
mother, but the kids got to cross the street andtake sailing lessons
and go windsurfing during the summer vaction time they spent with
me. There was a small community clinic that helped with my health
issues that occasionally happen. I struggled with the catastrophic
health insurance policy that never covered anything but I didn’t
have cancer or heart issues either. All that being said, I feel
looking back on my decision that I made the correct one for myself.
I am retired, social security and Medicare made that possible, and
still work, but with a wonderful gallery in this same area where I
have redirected the wonderful customer friends I have made over the
40 years of running my small shop. That gallery is currently getting
an online web site set up, so hopefully my workwill be sold with
even more of a customer base. I often wonder if I did make the
correct decision, but when I go and visit my children who live
inMadison I realize that I couldn’t have afforded the expensive
property prices and cost of living in that one city I would have
relocated to. I understand that this issue isn’t just for artists.
Recently the news on NPR stated that qualified applicants are not
able to accept positions in high tech jobs around the San Francisco
area because of the high cost of living. Therecession has appeared
in may nasty ways and created constant road blocks for many
different walks of life. Just a thought on this discussion. I really
appreciated your story and wish to share mine.


#7

I surmise that lots of people sold their jewelry when the price of
gold skyrocketed, and spent the money (hopefully) to pay down some
debt, and now don’t have much jewelry to be repaired nor much money
to buy any more.

Paf Dvorak


#8

I’m amazed that people can find money to buy all the latest, fancy
electronics and yet claim to be too broke to buy anything else. To
be honest, I could not justify the $599-899 price tag on IPads or
Samsung tabletsand ended up buying one on Ebay for a lot less. The
only reason I got smartphone and tablet was to be able to use Square
and stay in touch when I travel for business which is a lot. Still,
I try to keep my costs down and don’t use my gadgets much and stick
to a cheap plan. However, I need to make a living, and as long as
people are too cheap to invest in fine craftsmanship, we are doomed.
I’m now having to redo or cannibalize my old silver jewelry and
flatware so I can have silver stock tomake new jewelry, and not have
old flatware that sits there, year afteryear, not selling. I’m not
optimistic anymore about the future. I’ve been in a lousy mood, and
it was a tough winter, and I honestly not surehow this year will
shape up to. Also with the DIY movement going on, people are taking
classes to learn to do their own jewelry, or learning from UTube.
It’s amazing the sheer amount of beaded jewelry and crap out here.
People think jewelry is an easy sale, and it’s not. On another
topic, I’ve been photographed so much while I’m demo-ing in
workshops, I now say, if you want to take a pic, do it now, and
almost every student whips out their IPhone and take pic of each
step I do. It’s gotten pretty comical in class. Joy


#9

A good economy is good for business. A rising tide raises all ships.
And all that.

But if you take the attitude that business is bad because the
economy is bad, and just wait for it to get better, you very well may
be left behind even when it does get better.

The thing that powers a recovery is businesses, many businesses,
making decisions, changes, trying new things, working harder and
turning around their own small part of the economy. Politicians would
like you to think that they are the ones who can fix the economy. In
their vanity, they are cheerleaders who have themselves confused with
the players on the field.

The media is so obsessed with politics when they tell their
"narratives" we all get the idea politics is the key. But you still
have to look out for yourself.

Long ago I was exhibiting at a wholesale show next to an exhibitor
who had what was a very trendy line, trendy about 3 or 4 years
before. He had done well with it when it was hot and had grown
accustomed to much better sales. He was very discouraged, ranting
about how bad the economy was. At the time the economy really wasn’t
that bad. Those of us around him were having a pretty good show.
Since he blamed the economy, he wasn’t looking at what he might do
for himself to make things better.

But when the economy is bad, it is even more urgent that you figure
out what you can do to make things better for yourself. Thing change,
for better or worse. But the things people buy and how they buy them
have been changing faster in the past decade than they ever have
before. That can be a real challenge when you have something in place
that worked, but now it doesn’t so well. In 1997 I had it all figured
out how to sell with magazine ads. And then the internet wrecked it.
Had to move on. We all do.

Steve Walker


#10

Hello Joy,

How do you market your work? I encourage all silversmiths to produce
serving pieces as a virtual impulse items for the wealthy to
introduce them to our craft. People will buy these serving pieces as
wedding, anniversary, and birthday gifts.

Jeff Herman
hermansilver.com


#11
So how do we educate these kids that quality jewellery lasts and
is worth the money? 

Hah! That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it?

Frankly, I have no idea how to answer it - there is so much cheap
junk out there, but it appears folks don’t seem to care that it
breaks after being worn twice.

After that length of time they’re fed up with it anyway and want to
move on to the next fad. Attention span of a flea - if that.

I hope that there will always be those who appreciate good quality,
but perhaps we can’t bank on that any longer.

Janet


#12
I'm amazed that people can find money to buy all the latest, fancy
electronics and yet claim to be too broke to buy anything else. 

Perhaps that is /why/ they are too broke to buy anything else.

For the young it is a matter of needing to be accepted into their
peer group. If they all have the latest smart phones and unlimited
plans, and text to one another continually, that is the cost of entry
to be part of that group. And they will have to ‘upgrade’ to the
newest almost-exact-copy of their present phone every 12 - 15 months
to keep up with their peers. When one of my teens told me about peer
group acceptance issues I said it wasn’t what they think of you that
counts, it is what you think of them. I got the look “Since when did
you learn to speak Klingon? Can you translate? No, don’t bother.”

Globalization of commerce is going to put downward pressure on most
people as CEOs ship jobs overseas and pocket the savings in labor
costs while keeping their products high-priced. The average person is
going to respond by living poorer, and spending what the can of
discretionary income on things that bring them the most pleasure.
Text messaging and Flappy Bird is winning out over precious metal
trinkets.

Here I may be totally missing it, but I’ll give the example of TV
and Sherlock Holmes in particular. As bad as much of TV has been,
there were shows that had quality content. I’ll cite the BBC’s
Sherlock Holmes, with Jeremy Brett as an example. Great settings,
fine acting. It has been replaced with a new-generation version that
is full of specious camera stunts, like the camera going in circles
around the new Holmes, and other gimmicks that any “How to Take Home
Movies” book from the 70’s would have told you to avoid. I don’t know
of any shows that do not jiggle the camera, do not rapidly zoom in
and out, do not flash a new scene (with camera trick) every 1.76
seconds. Why bother with substance if the audience will accept
rubbish gimmickry?

I doubt this generation is likely to be much of a market for static
objects, especially when their peers are not interested either, and
buying said objects put real pressure on their increasingly
diminishing discretionary funds.

Neil A.


#13
Talking about different regions of the US having their own issues.
My wife and I have been kicking around the idea of moving to
Colorado, we love the mountains and one of our sons lives out
there. 

Mark - Colorado is a hotbed for artists, period. And I love it -
always someone interesting to meet, that understands what you do. I
don’t think it is necessarily too many jewelers - there are a bunch
of newbie jewelers (ok throw rocks at me) that do it for fun, but
there is the normal mix of trade shops, buy/sell, and custom
jewelers. You need to be good, really good, to survive, but most of
us find our niche.

If you have been running a store, it would mean finding a whole new
clientele. But you know that - Colorado is a great place, there is a
place for you here. People come here for vacation, and they aren’t
broke - you can sell to them… They have second homes here and
travel to the same places many times a year.

Judy Hoch - cheerleader for Colorado, hip hip hurrah !


#14
For the young it is a matter of needing to be accepted into their
peer group. 

Neil makes an important point here.

The trick is to find the group of young people who hang out with
peers who like and wear expensive jewelry. A very recent point in
case…

My son and lovely daughter in law live in Dallas Texas. He’s in
television and she’s in commercial real estate banking. Texas
yuppies.

Sigh. Where did I go wrong? A completely different lifestyle than I
choose to live.

My daughter in law is a jock by nature and isn’t big into bling and
designer clothes though she wears them beautifully.

When they got married we made her a lovely hand fabricated platinum
and diamond ring. Just recently my son called and said, “Mom Diane
loves her ring, but we are hanging with and doing biz with some
pretty big Dallas money. Can you and Pop make an addition to her ring
that will make it a little more Texas?” Ah, that’s my boy. Tim made a
ring jacket that was blinged out to the max.

The trick is to find that peer group that you want to cater to. They
are out there. Just not in my neighborhood here in Portlandia the
home of the hipsters. That’s why we do most of our big sales out of
state.

Also what Stephen W says is so true.

When 2008 hit, the folks who raised their prices improved their biz.
Just ask Jim Tuttle of Green Lake Jewelry.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#15

I second this. I used to live there, in another life, before i was
making jewelry, and I LOVED it. If I weren’t so firmly established
where I am I would move back in a hot minute. I still miss it a lot.

Janet Kofoed


#16

Mark – I’m also big on Colorado. They have lots of rock hunting,
gold mining, silver mining, turquoise, schools, etc., there and the
COMO conference in Salida, in the summer, when well-known jewelers
come in to do workshops. There’s also the Gem & Mineral Show in
Denver, in Sept.,which rivals Tucson, and some pretty good arts and
crafts shows and stores. I’m an amateur silversmith and I had a
wonderful time when I lived there. Lots of resources and the quality
of life is excellent. The economy also is pretty darn good. Good
luck with your decision.

Betsy


#17

Thanks for all the positive feedback on the great state of Colorado!
As a kid that actually was the area of the county that got me
interested in working with my hands. There was an old lapidary guy
who had a rock shop near where we were vacationing in a cabin by a
river (at the time I thought he was old, but he was probably only
40). I spent my time finding cool stones in the river and then
running over to his shop to identify them and cut them in half on his
saw and then try to polish them. Looking back, I can’t believe how
kind and generous he was with his time for that annoying little rock
hunting kid! I’m also sort of curious why my parents didn’t wonder
where I was? I’ve been drawn back there ever since.

Mark


#18

I am so jealous! I am going to be 81 in a few weeks, and wish I had
discovered this love of jewelry making when I was young. I’ve been
taking classes for about 10 years and have accumulated some amazing
cabs, just wish I could live long enough to set them all. We live in
a great artist area, but not so great for selling high-end stuff. At
my age marketing is a challenge, especially for one-of-a-kind pieces,
I begrudge the time and energy, especially the energy! Will someone
please chime in and tell me I’m not too late! Noralie


#19
I am so jealous! I am going to be 81 in a few weeks, and wish I
had discovered this love of jewelry making when I was young. 

My mom is almost 87 and owns and operates 2 antique stores in the
panhandle of Texas. She is thinking of buying a 3rd store. I am
amazed at her sometimes.


#20

Noralie,

You Rock, girl! Just keep on keeping on, as long as your eyes and
hands hold out. I’m tagging along not far behind you, and also
wonder about the great stones I have that MIGHT never be set into a
piece. Don’t let thoughts like that deter you, and I won’t let them
get in my way either. Make what you love until you can’t, and revel
in the fact that you have had a great run, for however long, doing
what you love.

One quotation I put on the wall when I teach: “We do not grow old.
We become old by not growing.” (Ida Fisher Davidoff) Making our
stuff keeps us growing, every time we sit down at our benches.

'Nuf,

Linda Kaye-Moses