Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jewellery and Art, And Why It's Tough

So, I realized that while I have artistic names and artistic descriptions on my Etsy shop and elsewhere that I sell....I don't get views. I don't really get that many sales. Why not? Hmm...well because the search engines have taken over and we no longer get to title our pieces "Hand In Hand, We Walk" because nobody is actually searching for that, they're searching for "Champagne Glass Pearl Necklace" or "Autumn Jewellery".

Hmm. It is a predicament but...I suppose it is what it is. Be found or be artistic, what do you want?

Yet again, the sales I made were when my items had those artistic names....so I wonder...what is the secret really? I suppose we will never know, we just do our best and try to preserve what sense of independence and artistry we can while still conforming just enough to actually be seen in this wonderful but often crazy online marketplace.

Thank you to all of you who have commented, by the way, I really love to see that. 11 Followers now! Woohoo! lol. I'm very excited about that and I appreciate each and every one of you.

I have more new items coming soon in my shoppe and I just can't wait! I had recently raised my prices and then I thought better of it. Pricing is a really hard concept when you're selling online, as anyone who has tried to sell their handmade items can attest to. I mean here you are, slaving away for an hour hand chaining glass pearls together to create a fabulous and elegant necklace (right?) and then you post it, thinking surely it will sell the second you list it (...riiighht?)....and then it sits. And so you wonder what it could be, is it actually bad looking I just don't know it? No, people like it. Is it the prices? What is it?

Emotion is hard to factor out when you're pricing handmade items. The jewellery is like your baby, you know, you put your heart and soul into it and you think people should be in love with it. And you know it's worth a good amount for all the work you put into it....but what do you do? Price for what the majority of people CAN pay....or what some people WILL pay....? If a lot of people want your items but can't afford them, it does you not a bit of good that they like it. But if you price them so that they are affordable, will you really be making a profit unless 2948493 buy in a month? Ha! That's the hard part.

I've heard arguments on both sides. Price higher, you're worth it and you'd rather depend on 2 sales than 20 to make what you need.
Then I've heard the other side. Price lower so that you still make a good amount but way more people can afford it, leading to way more sales, leading to way more referrals, leading to...leading to...leading to...

Everything leads to something does it not? In this world, it is a proven fact. Cause...and effect. (Name that movie!)

I lost my job....which caused me to be elated at first and then slightly worried....but it also caused me to have more time...which resulted in the effect of me making more items....which caused me to list them...which caused me also to renew them....which caused them to sell.

But what CAUSES people to buy from you? What do YOU look for when you go to buy from someone?

The thing that is so hard about handmade is like the woman at the last in person sale I went to. She loved a pair of earrings I had. Austrian crystal, hand wired, took about 2 hours to make the dang things, and really gorgeous if I can say that lol. I was surprised at how well they turned out, it was an experiment gone wonderful. (Don't you love that?) Anyway, she said "How much?" and I told her the price. $35. Really they should have been way higher for the materials, the fact that it was...I don't know...Austrian crystal...and the time. She scoffed...literally....I mean who scoffs? I never thought in this time period I would ever be able to accurately describe someone as SCOFFING at me....but scoff she did. Making the remark after that "That's too much. I can get half off at Penny's on all of my jewellery, I would never pay that for a pair of earrings."

*insert over dramatic scream of WHYYYYY here*

Why? Why do people NOT understand what the term HANDMADE means??? I am NOT Sears or Penny's or Wal Mart or Insert Big Box Company Here! I WILL NOT can CAN NOT compete with them! Nor do I WANT to! Handmade artisans put their time, their skills, their heart, their soul into each and every piece they sell. No two pieces will ever be exactly alike. No two pieces are churned out by some factory machine and sold by people who are making a fraction of what the boss makes, who has no idea WHAT he sells probably, sold by people who are desparate to make a sale because if they don't they'll lose their job because Mr. I'm Awesome Because I Have A Corner Office sits there all day staring at the bottom line, and if you aren't pulling it in the right direction, you're gone.

Let me tell you something....when I was hired at my last position, I got a big shpiel about how I was in charge of my destiny and I could sell however much I wanted to and make as much as I bla bla bla....

Listen to me when I say this, if you ever go to be hired for a sales job don't believe anything they tell you. Now, sales is a great job....if you're the person that can succeed. I don't like to shove my product down people's throats. I don't like to harass people. I don't like to call them 4 times before I stop calling them. I don't like to call them when 20484 people from the same company have called them in the last week. I don't like to "Now Mr. Customer, this is why YOU need MY product" to them. I don't like to see people as one size fits all and you all need this you just don't know it yet.

If you like to do that, and you like to be "aggressive" and talk people into things all day long GO for it! You can make a lot of money in sales, and where I worked before didn't lie to people or anything like that. It WAS a great product, and most people probably could have benefited from it. But that's not the point.

The point is this: you DONT control your own destiny there. I'm sorry. I don't care what anyone says. I was working a terrible database. An entire TEAM in another state working that database had an amazing manager (I know because the manager used to be ours) and NONE of them could meet their quotas. I wonder why.

But...it's cheaper to fire one person than to admit an entire system is screwball. So....when I had 10 deals backed up waiting to sell and get going....when I turned in a deal that day....when I was on unit quota for the month...I got let go. And surprisingly, after I got let go, someone else that I was in the same databse with got moved on to the (I can say this now that I'm gone) BETTER territory.....so. You tell me what's suspicious.

Now I've never once mentioned who I worked for before and unless you know me personally you don't know, so I don't feel bad using it as an example.

But the point is....this is how I was let go: I was called into the main boss' office...right after I turned in a deal mind you....and was sat down. I was told that I hadn't shown effort (uhh 10 deals backlogged...yeah...no effort) and a bunch of other nonsense. Their reason for letting me go? Not enough phone calls made in a day. Yeah. Not enough phone calls. Well...maybe because I was busy working on the TEN DEALS i would have turned in. Anyway. The boss told my manager to follow me to my desk. Until I asked for a box I was trying to fit everything in my desk into my purse. Finally I got a box. While the rest of the office on my side, the row where my team was, was still working, my manager stood beside me while I filled the box. Then...he carried it with me out to the curb. Gave me my box and took my key badge. That was it.

He didn't know anything about me. Maybe I lived in my own apartment? He didn't care. Maybe I would be homeless if I didn't have that job? He didn't care. Luckily that wasn't the case, but the big bosses don't CARE.

NOW.....that is not always true. If you watch the show Undercover Boss you will see many corporate CEOs and head hanchos with wonderful hearts who do amazing things and care for their employees. I am in no way saying that every sales job or every corporate job is the same way, it's not.

But the LARGE majority of them are.

Now....I went on this whole tyraid to illustrate a point about the lady who didn't like the price of my earrings. She wants to go purchase them for a low, low price at a big box company. Ok. Go for it. But would you rather buy at a really low price from a company that has thousands of employees, almost none of which have anything to do with the production of the item? A company that will let anyone they need to go to save those on top? (Not saying anything about Penny's in particular so don't freak out on me., just the big box stores in general). Ok then. Do it.

But I am NOT that company! Handmade artisans of all kinds are NOT those companies!!! We are ONE PERSON (or sometimes a few) that are every department. We are Accounting, we are HR, we are Marketing, we are Shipping and Receiving, we are Designer, we are Manufacturer....we do it all! And we give YOU the amazing wonderful customer one on one attention! Just for you!

I know that I personally hand craft all of my packaging, as well as the item, and I customise the packaging as need be for the customer. I look at their profiles on Etsy. I find out what their favourite colour is, their favourite animal...whatever. And then I decorate the package as such. And people love it. They open their box from me and see the personalized packaging and it's like Christmas! They know that it's a handmade item that they purchased straight from the person who put their heart and soul and work and time into it. And then went that extra step to make them feel as special as they truly are.

I give credit to big box companies, because they had to start somewhere, too! Good for them! But...half the time even the CEOs worked at other companies as high up managers and such....everyone seems so...disconnected. The product is just....something that makes money. Not...not something personal, something loved, something cherished, something treasured, something that isn't mass produced.

I'm not a machine. I only make a certain amount of items of each thing I make. Usually less than 5 per item. And many times my items are only made once, or twice if I want to keep one to wear for a demonstration of what I make. I know of 4 people off the top of my head in different countries and the US that are wearing the sole piece of jewellery in that particular style that I made.

That's special. That's personal. That's a person in Australia or New Zealand or Florida walking around with a piece of my heart.

And that means so much to me. And I know that I speak for probably 98% of all artisans when I say all of this, that our customers are our life blood, that we love our customers, that we put our heart and soul into each piece, that we feel attached to the items and those who buy them from us.

I don't use any "sales" techniques in my pieces. Why should I? The pieces I make tell their own story to whoever purchases them. Each item means something different to someone else.

The handmade marketplace is the only place left where you know what you're getting, where it's coming from, who made it and can go directly to that person if you need assistance or help or have a question. I know that I can customise anything for anyone. I can make someone's dream wedding jewellery a reality. I can take someone's random and wonderful ideas for a piece that they just can't quite visualize or put into a full description and make it. And I'm not saying this like oh I'm so great, but ANY handmade artisan can do this when they're very specialized in their craft. That's WHY people buy handmade.

If I'm ever blessed enough to have the need and funds for an employee...for shipping or relisting or whatever it may be....I'm not going to have thousands. I don't want thousands. If I have ANY I'll probably have one eventually. And that person will be like part of the family. Because they're putting their work and time into my dream...my vision...my product...my items and my business. And that means SO much to me.

How much do you mean to your company? Or are you just a dollar sign? An expense constant? A number? A performance stat? A ranking?

I refuse to be that. I don't want to be that. I want to be me. And I want to make my own life and my own future. And hats off to those who are doing well in their big name companies. That's GREAT because that's for them.

But what saddens me is the people who don't want to be there but feel they have no other option.

This society has become so commercial, so cold and detached, so impersonal.....we're all made to feel like we have to, have to, have to....have to go to college, trade schools are for losers...at least that's how we felt in high school. I know that's how I felt...not by my parents but by the system....that college was for successful people. College is the only option. College will save you. lol. College is great, and I'm very fortunate to have graduated from college and have a degree and I loved it. I love education and I love college. I really do. I love to learn. And I think having a degree is amazing.

But here's the thing. Why do we force our kids into picking something "employable". Don't be an art major, you won't get anywhere. No no, don't go into interior design, those jobs are so few and far between and then you have nothing to fall back on. Oh no, don't go into music, who hires musicians?

....why? Why do we do that? Right now, I would love more than anything to be a gemologist until I can be self sufficient doing jewellery. But I can't. I have a degree in Political Science. Love it. But I don't really want to work in it. And if you go to Monster and search Political Scientist....tell me what you get back. lol. Nothing.

But....I don't have money to go out and get a gemologist certificate that costs thousands through the GIA. Heck no.

And there's another thing. I know a LOT about gemstones. 9 times out of 10 I can tell you what a gemstone is. I can usually tell you its clarity. Its cut. Don't get me wrong I have a LOT to learn....but all of the jewellery making I do....all of the hands on experience with gemstones I have....all of the skills I've aquired over the years teaching myself how to make jewellery and utilize different techniques....none of that means anything to anyone when I put it on my resume because that's just a "hobby".

Really? Is it? I don't think it is. I don't see this as my hobby.

Case in point...where did it all go wrong? When did we start discounting experience? When did we start telling people with amazing artistic abilities that they don't count? They're not employable? Nobody wants them?
When did we start looking at people with 12 years of jewellery making experience and gemstone experience and tell them their "hobby" isn't "real" expeirence because they weren't employed by someone else when they learned it?

Do you see?

What happened to us as a society? And why are we so blind?

And when are we ever going to wake up?

If you are out there and you have a successful career at a big name company I applaud you. That's wonderful. You've worked hard, no doubt. And I am NOT in any way discounting you or the work you put in or the way you provide for yourself and your family.

But I'm speaking to those of us who don't WANT that....and are forced into it...told we have to do that to be happy and successful. Told our skills don't count because we taught ourselves. Told our art doesn't mean anything to this society.

To those of you, like me, who are into the handmade movement and make your own items and have dreams of success....cheers. Don't you ever stop, don't ever give up, don't ever let someone tell you that you just have a "hobby", don't ever look into the eyes of that person who says "oh...so you don't work" because you are self employed and believe them, don't you ever for one second doubt who you are as an artisan and your contribution to this world and society! Press on, make noise, shout out, use your voice and tell this world what we're made of! What we have to offer.

To those who are in high school..college is great. But if you want to go to a trade school, please do it. Going to a trade school doesn't make you uneducated. It doesn't make you a failure. It doesn't make you wrong. It doesn't make you lazy. It makes you focused and driven and you know exactly what you want and you know that it's at a particular trade school...like FIDM or GIA or whatever...go for it!
If you are in college and someone's trying to talk you out of that music major or that art major or that design major, don't you dare listen to them for a second!

This country and this world is made out of PEOPLE. Individuals who work hard, who have stories, who have emotions and feelings, who have skills and talents, who have amazing visions, who have wonderful ideas. I 110% and whole heartedly RESIST the country and world that wants me to be a corporate robot because society says that's "success".

Let's become a society of people again. Let's be passionate about our dreams. Let's not become complacent. Let's not just give in. We are not wild animals in a cage....where you open the door to the cage and they've been in captivity for so long they don't even TRY to escape anymore because they don't believe it will ever CHANGE for them......No!

You pry those bars off and you make noise and you use your voice and you dance and sing and laugh and LIVE and have dreams and goals and don't. ever. stop! Keep going until you get there. Keep pursuing your dreams and passions. Be a person! Be you!

I celebrate each and every one of you, and if you've read this long I am so thankful! lol. I'm sorry to go on and on but....this is something I am so passionate about!

Go Inspire and Be Inspired!!!

Let us all be people. Let us all love each other for who we are. Let us all realize the skills that people have. Let us all take some time and hear each other's stories. Let us all live. Break free from the zombie nation who focuses on the mighty dollar. Focus on the mighty heart.

Thank you for reading this! I hope somebody out there is excited and not going for a 4th cup of coffee because this was boring them lol.

You all rock. Let's go create!

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