Oct 232010

If you’ve been making jewelry for any length of time, you’ve probably thought about selling it.  There are a lot of different ways to make your hobby pay for itself (or develop your hobby into a full-time business!), including consigning your work in a gift shop, boutique or beauty salon.  Here are a few tips that I’ve found have helped me when I’ve decided to consign work.

Agree with the shop owner on what the consignment fee will be BEFORE leaving your work in the shop.  Most places I have worked with charge a percentage when a piece sells, but some will ask for a flat monthly fee or other arrangement.

Make a list (inventory) of the pieces you are consigning.  A couple of easy ways to do this are handwritten lists, a list on your computer (Excel or Word work well for software), or even a photo of the pieces being consigned.  Make sure your list includes a brief description, item number (which should correspond to a tag on the piece), and the item price.  Leave a copy of the list with the shop owner or manager.

Talk to the owner/manager about how you will be paid.  You should know up front if you will receive a check in the mail, have a deposit made to your Paypal account, if you will need to pick up a check, etc.,  I also like to know when the owner makes payment – once a month, once a quarter, on the 15th, etc.,

Know up front what the expectations are regarding displays – if you are expected to provide displays, make sure you inventory them like you do your jewelry.  I have not had it happen to me, but I have heard horror stories about displays and packaging materials that have been used for someone else’s jewelry…so make sure you know what you are leaving behind and how it will be used.

Have fun with the consignment – chances are, you and the shop owner/manager will develop a good relationship…after all, you both have the same goal – sell your wonderful jewelry!!

Oct 152010


Have you looked at the spot price of silver or gold lately?  If so, you’ll know why I’m making that sound…spot (the price by which most retailers and wholesalers base the price they sell their goods to you) is at an all time high for both metals.  And it just keeps climbing every day.

While I’ll still use silver (and when requested, gold) in my work, I lean more toward affordable alternatives – copper, aluminum, bronze and brass – still putting high quality workmanship in my pieces, but less costly materials.

Today I really want to bring your attention to brass – a nice option when someone wants a gold colored piece.  Brass will oxidize quickly to a dark gold color, but can be brought back to shiny if desired using jewelry cleaner, or any of the natural cleaners I’ve blogged about before.

Brass is a base metal, so some people may experience allergic reactions to surface or piercing contact.  If you are making earrings using brass wire or jump rings, you may want to consider using sterling silver or niobium ear wires instead of brass.

Sep 042010

I love to stamp!  Letter stamps are a fun way to add character to a piece – you can make up a silly saying, or using something that’s inspirational.

It’s the pits, however, when you start stamping and either a) can’t read the letter on the stamp because it’s small, or b) accidently misspell or jumble your letters around (ever stamped a letter sideways?  doesn’t work!).  Well, here’s a quick and easy way to mark your stamps so you’ll never have that happen again!

I took some white nail polish, put a dab on the front (side that faces me when I stamp) of the stamp handle, and when the nail polish was dry, used a Sharpie to write the corresponding letter on the stamp.  When I go to stamp a name, phrase or word, I line up my stamps in the order I’ll be using them with the label face up.  This way, I can check my spelling, AND I know my letters will be going the right direction!

When you are stamping letters, use a medium tap with a hammer.  A dead blow hammer works best (no bounce back), but especially with single line letters (like “I” or “L”), if you whack it too hard, you risk cutting thru your piece.

Have fun!

Aug 292010

I’m starting a new venture with the Starving Jewelry Artists…a “blog carnival” where we will all discuss a specific topic each month.  This month’s topic/question was “How does texture play into your work?”

Obviously, texture is a metal-worker’s best friend.  Combining stamping, hammering, patinas, and other texturizing techniques is a basic component of working with metals.  But I’ll address another reason for using texture in my work.

Cover Up.

Yep…using texture is sometimes an easy way to “hide” those little imperfections and OOPS! moments one has with a tool that mars the surface of pretty, shiny metal.

It’s sort of like putting on make up, however…a little goes a long way.  Putting on a thick coat of foundation or powder makes my face look like a mask, while a light swipe will do a great job at covering up that tiny scar on my forehead or scratch on my nose.

While I have a plethora of fancy texturing hammers, sometimes I prefer to just use a small ballpeen hammer to create tiny dents that look great shiny OR with a nice patina (see my articles on patina for more details on how to add color and depth to your metal work).  Either way, if I’ve made a boo-boo while working on a piece, like a scratch or dent, the texture added by hammering lightly will help to disguise the flaw.

When I started adding texture to my pieces, I made a common mistake of whacking the tar out of my pieces.  Not always necessary!  Especially with lighter gauge wire or sheet metal, a modest tap is all that’s really needed.  And hammering on a softer surface (like wood or rubber) will create a different result from hammering on a steel block.  Remember, you can always add more texture…harder to smooth it out if you’ve done too much!!

Experiment with different surfaces and hammers, and remember…texture can be your friend, especially when “covering up” those flaws!


Aug 132010

Every show is unique – I never know exactly how I’ll be set up until I get to the site!  Today, I am setting up in the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha for the Art in Bloom festival.  This show is unique in it’s garden setting…I’ll be outside in my 10×10 tent with an 8′ table (provided by the Gardens).

I try to stay organized in between shows, but it always helps to have a checklist to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.  Here’s a list of the things I make sure I have for every show:

Display materials

  • Tables
  • Table coverings
  • Earring, bracelet, ring and necklace displays
  • “Floof” (sometimes a vase with some dried flowers or other interesting items that will bring attention to my booth but not draw away from my jewelry!)
  • Business cards and holders
  • Risers
  • Shelves
  • Mirrors
  • Guest book
  • Signage, including credit card acceptance, return policy, artist statement, etc.,
  • Wheeled cart or 2-wheeler to haul boxes to and from my car

Point of Sale (POS) materials

  • Cash box and bank (1’s, 5’s, coins to make change)
  • Receipt book to write sales in
  • Calculator
  • Cash register (optional)
  • Pens
  • Charge slips (for knuckle buster type credit card sales)
  • Knuckle buster
  • Credit card swiper
  • Clipboard (for customers to use when signing a credit card slip or to write out their checks)
  • Bags for items sold (I use small recloseable plastic bags that I pre-stuff with a business card and anti-tarnish strip, and organza bags to put the jewelry and receipt in)
  • Notebook (write up custom orders, customer questions, items to replenish before your next show)

Cleaning materials

  • Window cleaner (for displays and mirrors)
  • Lint brush
  • Paper towels or lint-free cloths
  • Trash bags (you’d be surprised how often you are NOT near a trash container!)

Personal items

  • Tissue
  • Chapstick or lip balm
  • Water
  • Small, easy to eat (and not messy) snacks
  • Eyeglasses
  • Baby wipes (nice if you are outside and it’s hot!)
  • Chair if not provided by the venue
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel

Jewelry supplies

  • Spare beading wire, crimps, ear wires, clasps, chain, jump rings, wire…anything you can use to make a quick change or repair.  I’ve gained many a sale simply by offering to change a style or ear wire or clasp for a customer, on the spot!
  • Tools you will need to perform those quick changes or for projects (see next bullet).  Don’t forget a crimper, pliers, cutters as essentials!
  • Projects to work on.  Rather than reading a magazine or book, I recommend jewelry makers work on easy projects during down time.  Not only does it show that your work is handmade and created by YOU, but many times, people are interested enough to cluster around your “demo”…a booth that’s full of people draws more people in!  Just be sure you are working on something that you can put down at a moment’s notice if a customer needs help or has a question.
  • Work surface and/or beading mat.

If you are outdoors, you’ll also need a tent or canopy (check with the venue to see what is acceptable), weights and/or stakes.  Add in sun screen, bug spray and a fan if needed!

And FINALLY….don’t forget your jewelry!  I’ve known a couple of people who did a fabulous job of setting up their booth, then realized their product was back home by the back door!

Aug 092010

Gotta share these…

Last month, I had a booth set up at the local county fair.  We’ve been in the commercial exhibit building for 5 or 6 years, and it’s a good opportunity to see folks that I don’t get to see every day!

Jeremy tends the “shop” during the day, and asked me to bring my stash of rubber rings from Fire Mountain Gems and some aluminum rings.  When I got to the fair on Friday, he showed me what he’d made.

Roundmaille…something I have only experimented with so far!  And the twerp just “made it up” from an idea in his head.

I need to work with him a little on his closures, but he did a fantastic job on the weave…and check out the eye for color!  I told him we’d put a price tag on his two bracelets and he could have the profit when they sell, but I’m tempted to snag that blue/purple/teal one for myself.

I’m pretty proud of his accomplishments.  I may have to hire him!!

Aug 072010

…to sooth the savage beader. 🙂

While I love the sounds of silence, I do like to have some background “noise” when I’m working in my studio.  I’m not much of a TV-watcher, although I find some of the “how to” shows on public television interesting (even if I have no interest in the subject, like sewing!).  More often, I’ll pop a concert DVD in my studio TV, or turn on the radio.

When I’m working online – blogging, Facebooking (I guess that’s now a verb, LOL ), listing items on Etsy, or doing research – I occasionally will have my television set to a satellite radio station.

Until yesterday.

My daughter commented on her Facebook page that she was madly in love with Pandora…I instantly thought of the popular beads with the big holes, but no, she meant Pandora.com…online radio that YOU program yourself.  After just a few minutes of using the site myself, I was hooked.

So, I’m off to listen to one of “my” favorite stations while I catch up on this morning’s news.  What do you listen to you when you are working on your projects?

BTW, your useless bit of trivia for today is the source of the original quote, usually misquoted as “Music hath (or has) charms to sooth the savage beast”.  It’s by William Congreve, in The mourning bride, written in 1697:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

Jul 282010

I’ve written about Generation Gems before…I LOVE their engraved beads for brag bracelets, and the customer service I get from Toni and the crew is absolutely the best.

Last Wednesday, I got a Convo on Etsy (Convos are Etsy’s version of a private message) from a gal who wanted to order a brag bracelet for her mom’s birthday…and it was a rush order.  She needed it by July 30 – and usually I require 3 weeks lead time to order, receive, create, and mail one off!

I called Generation Gems, talked to Toni, and we figured out a plan of action.  While I was on the phone with her, she mentioned that they had some new engraved beads and new fonts for engraving.  The following day, I ordered three hematite beads for my customer…and I received my order on Monday!  I had an out of town guest Monday evening, so I didn’t get a chance to open the box and work on the bracelet, but I got up early this morning to work on it, so that it could be mailed out today.

Opened my package, and had a great surprise!  Not only were my beads in the box (carefully packaged, like always!) but Toni had also included a sample of the new “Reflections” bead!

The Reflections Bead looks like a nut you’d buy in a hardware store, but with a smooth center instead of threaded…and made from sterling silver.  And engraved with names and birth dates on the four sides!  The hole is large enough for a Pandora-style bracelet, Viking Knit or other bangle type bracelet.  The square shape is unique – it’s very industrial-looking.

At $50 per bead (retail), the beads are a little pricey, but what an original gift!  I can definitely see Generations Gems’ Reflection Bead as something to be handed down…for generations! 😉

And that brag bracelet?  Done and on it’s way to Tennessee. I hope the recipient loves her new work of art!

Jul 252010

One of the things that really intrigues me is using items that aren’t really designed for jewelry in a jewelry design. (Boy, does that sound convoluted or WHAT.)

Like computer parts. Ruth Smith’s etsy shop, Periwinkle Dzns is a great example. Described as “handmade geek nerd jewelry/jewellery made from upcycled computer parts: resistors, capacitors, diodes, oscillators….”, she uses stuff that would otherwise end up in a dumpster, and turns it into functional and fun mini works of art!

And check out these steampunky pieces, made from old hardware and harness leather by Devin Johnson of Make Shift Accessories. Our booths were next to each other at the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts this summer, and not only is his work fresh and fun (bracelets made from old license plates and street signs are another of his creations), but he’s just a cool guy and fun to chat with.

I’ve got a few ideas for upcycling myself…some of you might remember that my parents “graced” me with a huge box of copper tiles from their kitchen remodel. The tiles used to be a backsplash, and I’ve used the sheet to make Christmas ornaments. Plus, hubby’s been cleaning up some of his work areas, and has gotten in the habit of asking me “Do you want this?” instead of tossing things like copper tubing, wire and other goodies.

So take a look around, get some inspiration from Ruth and Devin, and anyone else who’s using “green” components!

Jul 242010

Heh.  Make rings.  Finger rings, that is…not jump rings for once!

Rose Ring by Lynn Kvigne

Rose Ring by Lynn Kvigne

These cute little “rose” rings are made using 2 6″ sections of 20g craft wire.  I found that putting my ring mandrel in a vise helped with production, as I’m not always fighting to keep it stable.  My next show is our local county fair, and these go over pretty well with the fair crowd…so I made up 21 of them last night in about an hour.

You can make these pretty quickly once you have the hang of twisting the wire.  Here are the basic steps:

1. Cut 2 pieces of 20g wire (craft wire, copper, silver) 6″ long each.

2. Using a ring mandrel (or a dowel a little larger than your ring size if you don’t have a mandrel), wind both pieces, side by side around the mandrel.  Wind the wire at the size mark that is 1/2 size larger than your ring size.

3. Twist the four ends around each other in a knot.  Twist again, making a double spiral.

4. Remove the ring from the mandrel.

5. Wind the ends (two on either side) around the ring band twice.  Clip the ends.

6. The raw ends will be a little sharp!  You’ll want to either gently file them or put your ring in a tumbler with stainless steel shot for about 30-45 minutes.

Wear it with pride!