Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I'm off to WI to work at the Bead & Button show. I'll return on June 12th. Hope you have lots of beady fun until then!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Let us make righteous jewelry

Let us make righteous jewelry,
adorn ourselves with rivers of silver,
salt our wrists with bits of moonstone,
twine amethysts into our hair.

Let us craft the truly beautiful,
pluck the moon from the sky for our rings,
pan the gold from the creek for our torc,
limn our ears with stars freshly fallen from the sky.

Let us create for ourselves,
the hammered copper of our words,
the twisted wire of our thoughts,
lushly woven into our own personal language of art.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Expanding horizons

If business were predictable, we'd all be billionaires.

When I first started my own business, I began at small local craft shows. The very first show I did was one from the most well-known local promoter.

I put together as much merchandise as I could. I had expensive tags made so that I could label the kinds of beads that went into each necklace. I borrowed earring racks from a friend. I pulled out some black fabric that had once been part of a store display.

I bought T-bars and forms from Rio Grande. I also bought velvet tray inserts and I found a Diana statue in Robert Ham's catalog that actually ended up traveling with me to many, many shows until she became stained from being packed damp against black cloth.

I became nervous about not having enough inventory, and I worked feverishly, staying up every night after my day job (where I worked 10 am to 9 pm) to make more jewelry.

This was my first proud attempt at a display:

I was thrilled with it. I felt like I had finally worked hard at something and been rewarded, in a way.

This is more or less what my display looked like at my first show. I was so certain that I'd have lots of customers that I asked my sister to help me.

We set up, and I was a basket case, trying to fit everything onto the table and trying to make everything look "perfect." I had even made a sign explaining the name to put on checks. A friend who was in the business thought that I would sell nearly all of it at the show.

By the end of the day, I was nearly in tears. A few people had bought my most economical items--$5 wire-wrapped Lake Michigan stones on cords--but that was it. Even worse, everyone who bought something made a face or was annoyed when I charged sales tax.

I barely took in $100 at the show.

The pattern repeated at every show I did. I would get one customer who would like what I did, and buy $30; the rest would buy earrings, and I would barely eke out $150.

Completely by accident, I signed up for an outdoor art fair. When I realized what I had done, I was horrified. I called and found out that a tent rental would cost $80. I had to make new displays, and it ended up costing another $80. By the time I put together the fee and the expenses, I realized that the $150 I had been making at each show wouldn't even begin to cover this.

I set up anyway. I was miserable. It was raining. I expected the very worst, and just sat there like a lump when the show opened.

The first customer spent $150 without even batting an eyelash.

I don't even need to explain how excited I was. By the end of the show, I had made $1200.

I changed my entire show strategy and began to do outdoor art fairs, which were ten times better for my jewelry.

Of course, my life has changed, and my business has changed. I've been doing bead shows with my closeout beads, hoping that I would be able to make a new niche for myself, but I'm just not reaching the right market.

So I signed up for a small community garage sale for the weekend. I thought it would be a great market--as long as I get a bead addict or two, someone who can recognize how incredible my prices are, I'd be able to go home satisfied--but it was one of the worst shows I've ever done. The day dragged by, and I'm going to cut my losses by not going to day #2. (Sometimes it's better to do something that will make you money instead of cost you money. I'm going to spend the day working on eBay stuff.)

But I won't stop trying to expand my market. There has to be a place for closeout beads somewhere!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some tips for buying beads on eBay

About two years ago I began listing beads on eBay. At first, I thought it would be a good way to get rid of old stock. I didn't know that it would become a business for me.

I starting by listing huge lots of awful black coral. Keep in mind that it wasn't even black coral--it had been lacquered to look like black coral. They were shaped like rice grains and just a bit bigger.

Later, one of the purchasers mentioned that she thought it actually was wood that had been lacquered. But I digress.

The eBay bead market is quite congested. There are good sellers, bad sellers, and in-between sellers. There are inexperienced sellers, and experienced sellers.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when you are looking at auctions:

  1. Read the auction entirely. Yes, I know this seems simple, but seriously, this is incredibly important. I can't tell you how many problems I've had because someone didn't take the time to read the auction's description or terms.

    • Read their terms. This is one of the first things you should check out if you've decided to purchase an item from them. Which forms of payment do they accept? How do they figure out shipping charges? Do they combine shipping charges if you purchase more than one item? Answers to these questions will save you lots of heartache.

    • Read the description carefully. I say description here on purpose. Do not assume that the title is what you are getting--titles are known for being scrambled. Many sellers simply cram as many descriptive words as they can in the title so that their items will show up in the most possible searches. Read the description carefully and make certain that you are getting what you think you're getting. I recently heard a story about a woman who bid on a mold made from a bead--however, she thought she was getting a bead made from the mold, which is a different thing entirely.

    • Measurements. Take time to think about the measurements provided. Make certain you are thinking on the correct scale--inches are quite different from millimeters. Have a ruler with you when you browse, and it will help you figure out the scale involved.

    • Pictures. Are the pictures blurry? Hard to figure out? Beware of filling in the details and assuming that the product is what you think it is. Also watch out for a common practice on eBay, which is using stock photos. Often a vendor will take a single picture of an item that they have a large quantity of, and display that picture with every auction. This is not a bad practice when the items are identical, but when the items are handmade and there are variations, you could get stuck with beads that are as described but are substantially different from the picture shown. Most sellers will add a phrase in the description somewhere that the actual beads may vary from the photo, and that's your cue that you may not get quite what you expected.

  2. If you're not certain, email the seller. I can't even estimate how many problems this can prevent. Seriously. You should not feel shy about this at all. I'm not talking about emailing to double-check the terms in the auction--if it's spelled out in black and white, then that's pretty straightforward. But if they don't have any shipping terms listed, or if they have no terms listed for combined shipping, then ask before you bid on multiple auctions. If they don't respond within a day or two, then you know to be even more cautious. Yes, it might be because their child fell off a slide and had to go to the ER. However, most conscientious eBay sellers do attempt to answer emails quickly and efficiently.

  3. Beware of the negative feedback loop. So you received something that you weren't expecting, but when you went back and looked over the auction, it was clear that you were going to get what you got. Do you leave negative feedback? Hmm.

    My own philosophy is that negative feedback should only be reserved for the worst of situations. Your first course should always be to contact the seller before you leave that feedback. Beginning eBayers often think that they have to use that feedback to completely describe their transaction, which is how it is meant to work, in theory.

    In practice, however, it is quite different. Leaving neutral or negative feedback harms a seller in many ways. EBay as an organization has been getting more and more restrictive toward sellers, and a negative piece of feedback can damage a seller in numerous ways.

    I know from experience that most sellers will try to work something out with the buyer if he or she is unsatisfied. If you don't give the seller a chance, you will most likely receive a negative in return, and this will just make the situation worse. Or you will be blocked from their auctions. Or worse.

    Be wary of jumping on the negative bandwagon too quickly. First, contact the seller. Also, check the auction very carefully. Were you disappointed because the item was significantly misrepresented? Or were you disappointed because you did not read the description fully? If it's the latter, then you should not punish the seller.

In hindsight, I realize that I was very lucky in the beginning. I did list the black coral with lots of warnings, explaining that I knew it was lacquered, and very poor quality. It sold for a lot less than it had been purchased for, which isn't a good thing. However, it was through these experiences that I learned about how to write a title, an honest description, and most importantly, what the bead market on eBay was really like.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A little more of my beading history

When I first started beading in 1996, it seemed like a brave new world.

Now, obviously, beading is an ancient activity. In the United States, it's always been a hobby. However, after a big surge in the sixties, it submerged again, and it just seemed to be re-emerging at that point.

When I first first started beading, I thought that beading was a really great, inexpensive hobby. And it is--as long as you don't mind that your jewelry, in turn, looks inexpensive. I was buying beads at Frank's Nursery and Crafts, and my jewelry looked like Frank's jewelry, quite honestly.

I was ready to give up. And then my mom bought me a little bag of beads from Beads SRO in Royal Oak, and when I opened the bag, I nearly died. The beads she'd bought were worlds away from Frank's beads. I'd never seen any beads like them. I made several necklaces and earrings that week, and from that point on I was hooked. I found more bead stores in metro Detroit, and I began to spend money--lots of money.

I went on vacation to Chicago and found stores there, and bought lots of amazing beads, including recycled glass beads from Hebron. I had such a great time expanding my boundaries.

I began working for a bead store, and devoured books about working with glass and the history of beads.

Working for the bead store was incredibly educational. The store sold Italian handicrafts such as dolls and masks, and sold a lot of glass. The owner imported beads from Italy, and the staff made beaded jewelry for sale in the store, as well as selling the beads.

At this point the mainstream public had no idea about beading as a hobby. A lot of the job entailed explaining to people why a bead would cost $2 (or $200).

Selling the jewelry was much more fulfilling. I learned a lot about style, color, and assembly-line jewelry-making at that point. I made large batches of wire links, wire spirals, and earrings every few weeks, and I did a lot of stringing.

Since then, I've had a lot of different work in the bead industry. I've worked as a sales representative for a large company and done trunk shows, trade shows, and bead society shows; I've worked for myself, doing bead shows with my closeout beads; and I've sold lots and lots of jewelry over the years, both through galleries and art fairs. It's been a lot of work, and a lot of fun.

One of the most fulfilling aspects, though, is seeing someone wear a piece of jewelry that I've made. It still makes me feel all warm and happy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A bit of background...

How did I get into this mess beading?

Well, let me set the Way Back Machine to 1996...

I was working at a retail chain bookstore at the time. A store selling Italian beads, jewelry, and glass and handcrafted items from Venice and Murano opened in the mall.

I had just broken off my engagement at the time, and a friend and I were walking around the mall, and she said, "Why don't we take a class?"

I had never even considered it, and probably never would have, had she not said anything. Being that I now had extra time and money (now that I was no longer engaged, heh), I signed up.

The class was wonderful, and I enjoyed it tremendously. When I came home to show my mom the first piece of jewelry I'd ever made, she looked at it and said, "I hope this doesn't mean that you're going to start selling jewelry." Again, I had never even considered it, but that planted the seed in my head. Poor Mom.

Within six months I had taken five classes, started my business, and had my first consignment account.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A new blog!

I'm very excited to start posting here. I hope to blog about jewelry and beads, and about crafting and creating things. Thanks for joining me!