Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Joy of Custom Orders

When you design jewellery, custom requests are inevitable. They take more time, and they often result in a lower profit because of it. But custom orders are a unique challenge, and I welcome them because for me there is nothing more fulfilling than creating something for a customer that is unique to them. Something that matches their taste, their wedding dress, their frame or their style. It's a challenge, and it's an exciting one.

I recently was contacted by a customer who was getting married in Hawaii. Her dress was floor-length, strapless and gauzy. The best part? This incredible dress was swirls of royal blue, purple and hot pink. Just perfect for a Hawaiian wedding on the beach. Obviously, the traditional pearl earrings just wouldn't do. So together we designed a pair of long, bright earrings dripping with colourful gemstones including swiss blue topaz, hot pink topaz and amethyst. The size suited her 5'8" frame, and really complemented her amazing dress:

Wedding jewellery can be so different, as unique as the brides wearing them. This necklace I made for a friend of mine who was married last year. It was a Fall wedding which included browns and oranges and leaves - no flowers. My friend had very little input on her jewellery, so when she came to see it for the first time, it was a bit nerve-wracking. After all, this was her wedding jewellery! Luckily, she loved it:

A wedding is a great reason to buy a custom piece of jewellery, but sometimes you just want something that suits your style exactly. Another customer contacted me about a pair of earrings in my shop, and asked if I could make a matching necklace. I had just enough tiny orange-pink sapphire stones to create this matching piece for her:

When a designer offers custom pieces, it's a way of saying, "you don't have to fit into my jewellery; my jewellery will be made to fit you." Another of my customers has small wrists, and needs to have bracelets made quite a bit smaller. No problem. This is one of her most recent purchases (oh, and she had me make a matching necklace and earrings too):

Sometimes buyers like what they see in my shop, but they want different colours. I had made a necklace similar to the one below, but in more subtle shades. My customer preferred bright, so bright is what we did!

And nice, bright matching hoop earrings too:

Finally, the best part of offering custom orders for me is when a customer helps me come up with a really great design. I had made some rainbow hoops a while back, with all different gemstones including ruby, amethyst, citrine and tourmaline. I didn't know if they would be popular, but I had so much fun making them because it took me back to the days of drawing rainbows and unicorns as a child. Fun, colourful and cheerful. A lovely woman contacted me and asked if I could make a rainbow bangle, and this is what we came up with:

I liked it so much I added another one to my shop! I really enjoyed choosing the stones that blend from one colour to another, and the best part is that this bangle will go with any outfit.

When I opened my shop, I wasn't prepared for so many of my requests to be custom requests. But I'm happy that it's working out that way, and grateful to my customers for inspiring new designs.

My only regret? Why, oh why did I not learn how to make jewellery 13 years ago when I got married? I could have become my own happy customer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Have a Successful Jewellery Party

Who doesn't love a party?

That was my thought when I decided to pursue jewellery parties as a supplement to my online sales. You know when you think something will be really easy and then it's actually not?

Well, these are that easy.

Not that they don't take any work. They do. Jewellery parties take planning, hard work, creativity and some investment. But once you have your jewellery displayed and the guests start to arrive, you will have some fun.

My First Open House

I held my first open house in late Fall. I wanted to catch shoppers before they had completed too much of their Christmas shopping. I invited all of my friends and neighbours and told them that their friends were welcome as well. I printed invitations (Wal-Mart, 50 cents each) and handed them out. I purchased necklace busts, bracelet bars, a gorgeous iron earring tree, and velvet-lined trays. I made earring cards from DIY business cards that I bought from Staples. I made sure I had enough boxes, gift bags, business cards, ribbon, and cash on hand to make change.

My open house was small, but profitable. Because every guest was a friend, I felt comfortable and relaxed that night, and it was a dry run for future parties. It also gave me an excuse to test my display layout and see what worked (earrings attached to bright white earring cards) and what didn't (one overhead lighting fixture=not nearly enough light for an evening party).

I had a draw for a free pair of earrings, and on the draw sheets I asked guests to check off whether or not they would like to host a party. Once I had those slips, I knew who to approach and who was not interested.

I quickly learned that food was not the draw. Even though I had made some goodies, the focus of the party was the jewellery and no one even sampled the food. The wine disappeared though!

When everyone left, I was tired and happy. I had sold about ten pieces of jewellery, and it hadn't felt like work at all. It was like a girls' night in!

Party Girl

Since that first open house, I have held four more parties. Some have been at friends' homes, others at my Mom's (thanks Mom!) and another at my own home. Each time has been successful, and so much fun. I am so grateful to my friends and family for hosting, and for showing me such support.

My Mom's dining room a.k.a. "Nancy's jewellery shop"

My favourite earring tree, all decked out

One thing that I have learned is that each party is very different. At my first open house I sold almost all earrings. I thought, "okay, earrings will be my big seller". At my very next party at a friend's house, I sold all bracelets and necklaces and only one pair of earrings. At my first open house, no one went near the food. At my Mom's party, every plate of food my Mom set out was devoured. (Maybe that says something about my cooking?)

Also, just because you have perfected your jewellery display once doesn't mean that your work is done. Every time I threw a party, my combination of product had changed. My most expensive bracelet used to be $110, so I had made a little tent card that said, "Bracelets $65 - $110". Then I went and made a $195 bracelet and all of a sudden that card was useless. I also started making bangles and anklets, and didn't have any displays, so I just improvised (I've got a bangle display and a great foot on order now!)

For those who sell jewellery, I recommend trying an open house in your own home first. You can set up your display the night before, and perfect it at your leisure. There's less pressure because you will know most, if not all of your guests. There's no driving and no booth fee to speak of.

The only drawback? You'll have to clean your house.

Happy Selling!

My Recipes (they're good - really!)

Dump Cake
1 yellow cake mix
1 19oz. tin crushed pineapple, unsweetened
1 tin cherry (or any fruit) pie filling
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped almonds

Spread pineapple in oiled 9x13 pan. Cover with pie filling. Sprinkle dry cake mix over top. Drizzle melted butter and nuts on top. Do not stir. Bake 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Top with whipped cream.

I got this classic recipe from my Grandma. She had written to my Mom on the recipe card: "Don't know if you have this. It's BIG and GOOD!" She wasn't kidding.

Herbal Iced Tea
4 teabags lemon zinger tea
4 teabags raspberry zinger tea
apple juice

Fill a pitcher halfway with boiling water and steep all 8 teabags for ten minutes. Remove teabags. Fill rest of pitcher with apple juice and stir.

This recipe is from Ina Garten - LOVE her recipes!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Etsy Shop is Three Months Old!

So much has happened in the last three months.

I finally, after a year and a half of planning, researching and creating, opened my jewellery shop on etsy. I threw myself into my shop and barely came up for air.

Before I knew it, three months had gone by - how did that happen?

While jewellery isn't flying off the shelves, I am pleased and surprised with my success so far. I have met some wonderful customers; worked with brides, boyfriends and Moms; held several jewellery parties and grew my little shop to almost 300 pieces.

My photography has definitely improved. This is one of my earlier shots:

I thought this was pretty good. After all, it had only taken hours of work and countless shots. (No joke). I had no lightbox, no tripod and no daylight bulbs. But once I got those tools in place, things started to look up. This is the same pair of earrings now:

I knew that if I was to be successful on etsy or any other online venue, I had to have decent photos. Photography is still challenging for me, but thank goodness there has been some improvement. Where I used to take about 50 shots to get four good ones, I now take 5-10. What a time saver! I can't tell you how much this changed my life. Now photography is not the dreaded chore it once was.

Another surprise is that I am doing more custom work than I thought I would. Sometimes customers are just looking for sterling instead of gold, or a longer or shorter bracelet. But other times I have designed a piece specifically for a customer. My most recent order was for a Toronto bride getting married in Hawaii. Her dress is strapless, gauzy, floor length, and swirls of bright blue, purple and pink. It was the most colourful wedding dress I've seen, and perfect for a wedding in Hawaii. The bride is 5'8" and wanted some really long, bold earrings. Together we designed these to match:

Swiss blue topaz, aquamarine, amethyst and hot pink topaz. She is so happy with them! Wish I could accompany them to Hawaii . . .

So in all, the last three months have been wonderful. My Spring goal is to work on my marketing and promotion. Like all etsy sellers, I am always looking to be seen. Now that I have a full shop, there's certainly lots to see!

Bring on Spring!