I don’t know what to say about the reasonableness of the rep, bowing
here to those who have experience with the breed. What I’m reminded
of is last year’s SNAG conference and its theme, “Making It [i.e. a
living] In Metal.” Much of what I came away with is that many of us
will have to create production lines in order to survive. I will
offer the two relevant tips that I have actually used, and one I’m
not up to using yet.
Thomas Mann analyzes his one of a kind pieces for elements he can
use to create production pieces. I have done this: I make high-end
wirework necklaces and earrings and I was asked to do some stuff that
kids could afford. I use a lot of hand coiling in my pieces and I
discovered that I could purchase little lengths of coil commercially.
I designed a line of earrings in which I assemble beads and coils
onto eye pins, then spiral the ends, and attach the “eye” to a
commercial ear wire. The are definitely “fast production”–although,
given how much I enjoy playing with color combinations, they’re also
probably one of a kind. They are cheap and they fit with the rest of
my work. (Now, if I had to make 300 of them to satisfy a rep, I’d
probably go crazy!) Whether or not I’m lowering the "perceived value"
of my work by doing this I don’t know. But it’s actually fun,
because I’m working almost entirely with colored niobium (thank you,
Reactive Metals Studios!) and glittery crystals and I’m a bit of a
Andy Cooperman said that his production line consisted entirely of
earrings. I doubt that they wholesale for $30 (do you mind telling us
what they do wholesale for, Andy?), but I thought this was good
advice. Obviously, I used that principle in designing my niobium
"kids line"–kids may love bracelets, but I can’t make them fast
enough for the price I could get. I can, however, come up with
earring elements (I’ve been making a lot of large hammered wire
spiral head pins recently), then lay them all out and move them
around until I have a bunch of earrings ready to assemble. This makes
it pretty quick.
I don’t think either of these ideas just apply to us bead and wire
folks. I’ve seen people solder earrings, using an "assembly line"
approach, in such a way that I’m sure they can make at least 10 pairs
in an hour (something I still can’t do).
The tip I haven’t used is Don Friedlich’s: to design a line that can
be made using industrial methods. Although he didn’t say so, this can
enable you to use union labor, which is something that’s very
important to me. I’m sure I’m not the only person who winced when he
showed a slide of somebody’s work, made with gold-plated industrial
wire mesh, and compared it to Mary Lee Hu’s. But there were a lot of
clever ideas in that slide show, and he passed around the
photo-etched (I think…) plates for his “clothes pins.” The trick is
to come up with something that looks like your work–or maybe
not–and design it up front to be mass-produced. (I think I’m
repeating myself. I have a strong memory of referring to this as the
"Ikea method" of jewelry design at some time in the past. Now I’ll
have to go search the archives…).
Well, that was pretty wordy!