Every year up til this one, Christmastime has been a chance for me to go back to Georgia and see the family- I'd spend the holiday eating lots of food, watching all of the Lord of the Rings extended edition dvds, reading, and catching up with all the people I hadn't seen for a long time. This year was completely different.

This is the first year I haven't been working on University projects, so I decided to embrace retail's busiest time of year and participate in several jewellery shows (which I've mentioned in previous blog posts)- so up to December 12th I was frantically busy getting things ready to go in shops, gallery exhibitions, and Christmas fairs.

On December 13th my first wedding guest arrived.

I had done a little bit of prep work for my New Years Day wedding (1-1-11!), but I was so busy filling jewellery orders that by the time I finished my last show on December 12th I still had most of my wedding to sort out.

Over the next 3 weeks I worked as an event planner, jeweller (made the bridesmaids jewellery and designed my own wedding ring, of course!), graphic designer and printer (invitations, programmes, place cards), caterer (bought some pre-made food from Marks and Spencer but had to put it all together and make enough things for 200 wedding guests!), florist, tailor (needed to alter my wedding dress and one of the bridesmaid's dresses), tour guide (for all the Americans who flew to the UK for the wedding!), makeup artist, and personal shopper. My fiance kept trying to get me to pay other people to do parts of the wedding (especially the cake- he thought it was crazy for me to make 250 cupcakes, and I thought it was crazy to pay someone else £800 ($1300) to make cake that wasn't nearly as tasty as what I could make!)

*If you'd like to see some photos of the wedding and how the different projects I mentioned turned out, take a look at http://miriamrowe.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/my-3-week-career-change-...

I'm sure my "do it yourself" attitude toward life in general contributed greatly to my 3 week career change; I've never been someone who wanted to pay people to do something that I could do myself! In hindsight, it probably would have been good if I had subcontracted a few things out, but luckily I had a ton of amazing friends and relatives who pitched in and made everything happen just the way it needed to!

I think having a short "career change" has given me a fresh perspective on my jewellery business. I've always operated my jewellery business the same way I operated my wedding plans: I did everything. Even if there wasn't something I didn't know how to do, I would work at it until I figured it out, rather than paying an expert to do the job. I think there are some very good things that have come from that in my jewellery business: I learned website design, Photoshop, and a lot of other computer and jewellery skills because of that attitude. I did learn, though, that sometimes it's not a bad thing to subcontract parts of your work that you might not be as good at.

Right about now I'd imagine there are some purists reading this who are ready to jump all over me for suggesting that artists should not make their own work. That's not what I'm saying- I will always be someone who doesn't want any one else making my pieces for me. What I am suggesting, though, is that there are so many sides to running a jewellery business: finances and bookkeeping, graphic design, marketing, networking, web design, packaging/presentation, applications for exhibitions and other opportunities, not to mention making the actual jewellery and finding time to design new pieces and learn new skills!

That's a tall order, even if you're working full time as a jeweller (which, as far as I can tell, is not the case with most jewellers). It's something I need to spend more time considering, and I'm sure how many of those jobs I do myself and how many things I contract out will balance out as I figure out the best use of my time and resources. I'd love to hear how you other Crafthausers balance all of the things that need to be done as an independent maker- let's chat!

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Replies to This Discussion

Miriam, kudos to you for making the realization that I made a long time ago.  I am a jeweler with a background of making items for clients.  I found out that what I could not do well was better left to someone that had immense experience in that area.  That way, I actually could make money, not lose it by trying something that I was not skilled in.  

Thanks for sharing your experience!  

Genevieve Flynn

Well put, Genevieve! I'd be interested to know what aspects of your business you contract out- have you seen a significant financial return from contracting those "trouble areas" out to the experts?

Miriam, my background stems from being a bench jeweler.  I was trained to do every aspect of a piece from drawing, wax carving, casting, cleanup and setting stones, to repairs of pieces.  I found that as I did less custom wax carving and/or casting of pieces that I turned to a friend whose experience is in carving custom waxes for stores in the metro Kansas City area.  At first I would still take on a simple wax, now I just give her a shout.  I know her base prices and when I don't I get a quote and then add on what I need.  As for the casting end, I send it out to a  New York firm whose work is completely in casting and cleanup.  It is a quick turn around and quality work.  However, I have found that I have to be careful of their material costs as they are pretty much retail.  That hurts a bit, but in silver not a big deal.  

Again, since I have really been away from the bench my stone setting skills are not what they used to be.  So I just factor in a difficult setting job as it would be at a jewelry store.  Most people haven't a problem with this.

Miriam, I feel that if you providing quality craftsmenship, your customer will do nothing but recommend you and your work.  But if you produce a piece of crap you are doomed!!

Wow, I went overboard here!!!  

 

From working in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, I've quickly learned that there are experts in any field who can do the work way faster and for a very small cost! Stone setters, engravers, platers, polishers... I know a lot of jewellers who pay to have those things done for them, and it certainly seems like a reasonable way to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

 

It's really good to hear what other people are doing to make their businesses run: thank you for sharing!

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