Since I was a child, the making and viewing of artistic creations has been a hobby of mine. I have accumulated thirty-three years’ worth of art and craft supplies that now claim an entire room in my house. When I was eleven, my Girl Scout troop planned to attend a jamboree at Pinchot state park. Our troop leader told us that if we made “swaps” we could trade these items for ones that girls from other troops brought to the event. I was so excited by this prospect that I showed up to the event with over a hundred earrings I made out of star sequins and Friendly Plastic sticks. The other girls loved them so much that I was able to trade them all away. I came home wanting to turn this passion into a business. After playing around with several designs, I selected my favorite forms, which I made available in a variety of colors. My Mom helped me set up a booth at a local craft show. Several attendees politely examined my wares and then wandered off. I saw other booths make sales. By the time the show was over, I had sold one pair of earrings and learned a lesson about human behavior. Despite the amount of effort I had put into making the earrings, only one person was actually interested enough in my designs to spend their money on it. I realized that my creations were probably not beautiful or well-made enough, or at the very least, the people at the show were not my target audience.
When I entered college, I decided that I wanted to attempt jewelry making for profit again, mostly as a way to fund my crafting activities and as an excuse to continue my hobby through college. I had never had any formal training in this craft. I would look at catalogs and buy whichever beads were cheap and fit into whatever creation I thought I could make with them. There was a gallery within walking distance of my dorm that featured local artists. The shop owner loved my designs and allowed me to sell my items on commission. I would create in spurts throughout my four years at school, selling enough items to pay for the materials I purchased. It was exciting to know that someone else thought my work was interesting enough to buy. Since the items were sold by the gallery, I never got to see the people who bought them, or hear what they said about the pieces. When I would go to the store to pick up my check, I would usually admire the other items for sale. The other pieces in the gallery were things that I would consider purchasing. The shop owner recognized that my jewelry was in harmony with the rest of her store. After I graduated from college, I took my unsold items and stored them away for several years. One day, I examined them, trying to decide if I could use them as Christmas gifts for some relatives. My eye for quality had become more developed and I realized that my designs were not as well made as I would have liked. While these were the items that had not sold, and consequently the least desirable, they still reflected the state of my artistic ability during college. I worried about the durability of the jewelry that had sold and whether the customers had regretted their purchase. The jewelry prices had included the cost of materials, my labor, and the gallery fee. I had tried to set a price that I thought people would be willing to spend. The shop keeper never told me that I had a dissatisfied patron, so I decided that my designs were probably fairly priced.
About three years ago, I again attempted to sell jewelry. A small shop selling local art and mass produced items had opened less than a mile from my home. After making an appointment with the owner, she gave me feedback about my designs. I modified them to fit what she thought would probably sell in her shop. The majority of her patrons were small-town, middle-aged, middle-class women. While she loved my designs as-is, she was aware that her customers would probably not appreciate my style. It was difficult for me to design for this target audience because it made me feel limited. While I was able to sell two items, I decided that the situation did not satisfy me. I went back to crafting for fun and gifts. Several people have told me that I should start an Etsy shop, that I can make just a few items and select my target audience. Jewelry is a saturated genre on Etsy and at most craft fairs. In the area where I live, I do not see many people wearing statement jewelry, and I do not have much reference for the rest of the country. I also suspect that there is a disparity between what is being promoted in fashion magazines what is actually being purchased and worn. While it is true that you can view items previously sold in an Etsy shop, it doesn’t tell you if the item was ever worn. Perhaps the purchase was intended as a gift? Thanked over and then placed in the bottom of the jewelry box, along with the college ring and cheap nickel studs with a missing back. I still fantasize about creating for profit, but I am not sure if I can be dedicated enough to follow through. There are other opportunities — other local galleries — which I may try. I have also thought I might pursue decorative art instead. At this point, when I make something, I tend to compare it to all of the works I have seen in museums, arts and crafts shows, galleries, and in people’s homes. This makes it difficult for me to believe that someone else would be willing to purchase it. On the other hand, if I spend enough time creating without giving away my results, eventually I will have enough of a collection to put on display at a gallery. There are also the local art walks that allow artists to display their works for the public. In the meantime, I will report here on my progress and other related musings.