Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Guilty ...

It's been such a long time since I've been here.  I wouldn't be surprised if no-one sees this as you will all have justifiably given up on me.  I got into a kind of guilt spiral - the longer I didn't post for, the guiltier I felt about it and, consequently, the less I felt like posting.    I think some people are natural bloggers but I struggle a little bit with this medium.   I find the blank white box that pops up when you sign-in to write a new post intimidating.  I think I need to improve my methodology.  Perhaps jot things down, as I go, during the week. Actually, now that I write this it sounds like a plan and I'm starting to feel that guilt ebb (it's not gone but it's a bit lighter).

One of the things I've been very keen to ensure with my jewelry making is that it remains a place where I am free to play, be creative and not so mired down by the practicalities that affect so many aspects of my life and which can, frankly, suck the  joy out of them.  Of course I sell my jewelry but Quisnam is most definitely not just a business to me. It is also an investment in myself and my well being.  When I sit down to make - there might be frequent cursing and even the odd minor injury (hammers can be tricky) but there is also a kind of zen from which  I emerge calmer and happier.

The super talented Penny has been having a very interesting discussion about pricing over on her blog.  This is an issue I've touched on here in the past and I agree with almost all of what Penny, and and her commentators,  have to say.   I know when  I started I most definitely struggled with a lack of worthiness.  Nowadays I use a very straightforward formula to calculate my prices - cost of materials plus an hourly rate plus a percentage to cover associated overheads and things like time involved in photography, listing, administration etc.  This approach has, for me, taken a lot of the anxiety out of this aspect of Quisnam.  Now, I should caveat this with a couple of points.  I buy a lot from etsy sellers but I also source from thrift (opportunity/charity) shops and use, whenever I  can, found objects.  I rarely use precious metals like silver or gold (generally only on earring wires). The only mass produced bits and pieces I use are generally the ones that come attached to my thrift shop finds and which I usually alter in some way.  I also admit to cheating the hourly aspect of my pricing strategy from time time. Sometimes a piece takes way longer to complete  because of unanticipated design issues or I find one of my wire wraps isn't up to scratch so I have to re-make it. I don't include all this extra faffing about in  the final  price.  I'll also admit that my 'hourly-rate' for my jewelry making is probably lower than it should be. 

I'm not interested in benchmarking my work against the mass produced stuff available in retail stores or online markets places like eBay because that's like benchmarking processed against whole-foods.  I have found that most of the people I meet would much prefer to buy something hand made over something mass produced and they are absolutely prepared to pay more for it. But price can be a barrier, particularly in these tough times.  Whilst I don't want to use this an excuse to devalue my work it has shaped my approach to making. This means that when I am sourcing supplies I rule out those that will result in the finished piece having what I consider to be too high a price tag. 
Whenever possible I take advantage of reduced shipping costs and make multiple purchases from one one supplier, pragmatically waiting until I have a long enough shopping list to make it worthwhile. I now have a core list of suppliers that I use for my most often used components and materials and whose quality I can be assured of  - I am loyal to them and they are loyal to me, frequently giving me extras and discounts. Nowadays I am much  more ruthless and only use a proportion of the income generated from my sales to purchase supplies and other consumables.  If I haven't got the cash-flow I don't buy it!!  Does all this sound incredibly business like - hell yes!  But the irony is that this pragmatic approach frees me up so that I can relax when it comes to actually making. Does my approach constrain my creativity - yes to an extent, but it is a fundamental part of my aesthetic.   I am committed to making my jewelry what I consider to be affordable (of course affordable is a super objective and relative, but that's a whole different post) - that's the challenge I have set myself and it's much more inspiring than it is constraining.

Do I break my own rules - of course I do.  This is art after all.


  1. Not a problem. I go for weeks without writing anything as well because, A, I have nothing to say, B, I'm working at my real job and more often than not it's so boring it puts me to sleep and nobody wants to read about that. Holidays and birthdays come but once a year and the anticipation... ooh boy... In our instant-gratification-at-any-cost-oh-hell-hang-the-cost-I'll-buy-it-myself-now world, waiting for something has become a rare but welcome novelty.

    As a tactic to find subject matter, I often get inspiration from email discussions with friends, do a copy, paste and an edit, expand a bit, throw in some pictures, et voila. And then twiddle my fingers waiting for another bright idea to wend its way into my brain.

    I agree with you about using silver -- I've been noticing how awful my unsold generous-silver-use-when-it-was-a-lot-cheaper jewellery is looking these days and how difficult it is to clean. I'm like you -- silver for earwires, but moving to base metals like pewter for the rest. Bonus is it can bring the price down quite a bit. On occasion, I use silver but with a far more judicious placement in to make it easy to clean and not damage things like pearls and turquoise.

    I've been forced to rethink pricing lately because I now accept Visa and MasterCard. It's still early days -- I've only had two transactions, -- and while it's an added (albeit minor) cost per transaction, it also means I have the monthly cost of an iPhone to amortise in order to use Square, meaning those two $25 transactions cost me about $35 each in a monthly iPhone bill. I'm doing a 3-day Gem Expo this weekend, and it'll be interesting to see if being able to take credit cards increases my sales exponentially... or not.

    I pretty much use your pricing method, but I have to add a third cost -- commission (so times 150 to allow for the 30% stores take) -- to all my prices, but I think what I'm selling is still fair and customers are still buying. This gives me the wiggle room to give a discount if people buy several items at once (one time a lady did all her Christmas shopping with me -- 17 items!) or if they're a regular customer.

    As always, beautiful, thoughtful work, a feast for the eyes and brain.

  2. So glad you came back :) I follow you on Facebook but was wondering if you would ever come back here....SOOOO glad you did! I have shared you on Google+ also! LOVE LOVE LOVE your work!!!

  3. Great to hear from you. I sometimes feel that being on facebook can be problematic, because I feel I can't repeat what I've said when I write my blog, so It's hard to keep finding stuff to stay fresh. I'm not too concerned about pricing, I know what my jewellery is worth, my biggest concern is getting myself found on etsy!

  4. Your new post is definitely worth the wait - no matter how long it takes you. What you say about the joy of making really resonates with me. I also do this because I need to for my own happiness and well-being and all that stuff. Of course, I'd love to be able to make a living at it, but that would change the whole dynamic and being of a certain age, I have the luxury of not having to rely on my jewelry to pay my bills.

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  6. I'm so glad people are engaging in this conversation. we all needed it. and some of your pieces could definitely be higher priced! i never have anything much to blog about but photos of my jewelry and a couple sentences about each piece about covers it. in any case, facebook reaches a much wider audience. im the only person who never quite got a hang of fb, lol. i've said it before but i love your thick fabric cords! they are always so thick and perfect.