Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Value of Handmade

Those who make handmade items come across this frequently -- people/potential customers wonder why we charge what we do for our items.  I've had people come to my booth and say "gosh that is expensive!"  Some will walk away in disgust before I can explain.  Now I put photos of me at the torch making a lampwork bead so I can use it for "show and tell" to folks who will listen.  Some people think that we can charge a couple dollars for a necklace, like they see in K-Mart or Walmart.

As a glass artisan I first start with raw glass rods.   There is glass that you can buy for about $5.00 a pound on up.   Most of the glass I use runs from $6 a pound to $25 a pound.   Right away, you can see that charging $2 for a necklace will not work.  Below is a photo of some of my glass.  This glass is then melted, with the torch, into a bead.  It is sometimes mixed with other colors, silver, gold, or frit (pieces of glass) to make our beads more beautiful.

Then we have costs for our equipment.  My kiln cost was probably about $1500 dollars originally.  I have to pay for the electricity to run the kiln when I anneal (harden) the glass beads.  That is about 8 hours, plus the time during the bead making process.   Say you are working in your studio for six hours.  The kiln has to be on because the newly formed molten bead has to be put into a hot kiln.   I had to also  purchase my protective eye equipment (see above) which was probably about $150. 

You need mandrels (in jars above, in front of the kiln), and other forming tools.  You need a torch ($200 on up) and oxygen.  Fuel is required to run the torch--I use natural gas in my Ann Arbor studio and propane in my Beaver Island studio. 

Then you need to market your products, after you have cleaned the beads.  That takes quite a lot of time and sometimes money to buy ads such as the one below I had in the Ann Arbor Observer.  I buy business cards, little handout cards, boxes with Beaver Island Jewelry logo on them, jewelry pouches. 
                                                                                     Moo cards - love em!

If you sell jewelry you will then buy findings (hopefully at wholesale prices) so that you can create a special item and then sell it at a show or on-line.  You may also put it in your ETSY shop, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.!  Oh - and this is after you have carefully photographed the necklace.  Gosh, I'm tired just thinking about this process.

Did I forget to mention our time spent creating the bead, fashioning the jewelry?  Our time is worth something.  One person I know "charges" or accounts for her time as $1 a minute of time taken to make the bead.  For example, one of the cupcake beads below probably took me about six minutes.  As we get more "famous" we can probably charge more but there is a point where you have to take into account all that went into the product, plus the artisan's time, to come up with a reasonable price.  And we are not getting rich following our artistic dreams!

I like to think that I am creating little pieces of art.  It may not be a Chihuley installation but it is a small piece of glass sculpture.   It is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that you will not see in Target or similar stores.  So, if you enjoy wearing something that you won't see on other people, you will like artisan created lampwork jewelry!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Summer vacation on Beaver Island & ETSY

Hi Everyone!

It has been a while since I've posted on my blog.  Guess I've been busy with other things.  Spent the summer on Beaver Island (Michigan) so that time went by in a flash!

Spent Tuesdays doing art lessons - some with Lois (foreground).  Others with a group of friends.

Spent some time having cocktails with friends!  And I learned how to make a good frozen strawberry marquarita.

Lots of time reading or making jewelry on our porch with the pooch and hubby.

Took bog walks with the neighbor.

Garden tour of beautiful gardens on Beaver Island.

Hikes with friends and the dog on the island.

Sold jewelry at Art in the Harbor on Saturdays in July and August. 

Gee, that was just a portion of what I did on my summer vacation!  In December I went to New Orleans with my husband who had to attend a conference.  Guess I'll put those photos in another blog, soon to come.

Lately, I have been trying to sell beads and jewelry on Brown Dog Glass Beads on ETSY.  That is the name of my shop under Handmade items.  That takes some time as you need to photograph the item, describe and post it, then try to "advertise" it around on social media.  There are zillions of cool shops on ETSY so I'm not quite sure how you get noticed.  This is the link to my shop.  Check it out!  And here's a couple items in my shop:

Talk to you later!