Sunday, 27 November 2011

Tip of the week - helping to sell your handmade silver jewellery

Tip of the week - helping you to sell your handmade silver jewellery
Don't Hide Negative Feedback
If you sell online - don't shy away from negative comments!  Instead, face them and address your customer's concerns.  Addressing them helps build trust and diffuse a tense situation and can help you win back an upset customer.  What's more, it gives you a chance to come to your defence.  Consider this.... one person out of ten will say when they've received good service. One person will tell TEN people when they've had poor service!
Often you will receive a customer compliment following the complaint if you've handled it well!
Customer Testimonials 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

National Art & Craft Directory and Wedding Ideas Magazine

I received a 'phone call yesterday from the National Art & Craft Directory where my jewellery is showcased to advise me that she had been speaking to a lady from Wedding Ideas Magazine.  She had been asked to suggest one or two designers' jewellery to feature in their magazine.  My "He Loves Me..... Daisy Jewellery" fitted the bill exactly!

I was asked to send two images from the Je T'Adore Collection to see if they would feature them in their magazine.   Watch this space!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

War Horse - Fact & Fiction at the National Army Museum

The War Horse "Fact & Fiction" exhibition is now running at the National Army Museum in Chelsea London.  War Horse "Fact & Fiction"

My Silver Horse Jewellery Collection is for sale at the National Army Museum in conjuntion with this exhibition which will be running until August 2012.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The A-Z of selling your handmade jewellery - K

The A- Z of selling your handmade jewellery
Letter K

Ever heard of the phrase KISS? - it's stands for Keep It Simple Stupid!
But, although it's an odd phrase it's one of those which actually does mean a lot.  Keeping it simple does help your customers.  The more complicated something is, the more people will be 'turned off'.  Supposing you have a website where the customers have to find out what you sell?  They're looking for earrings, but have to trawl 10 pages to find the earrings.... they're just not going to do it.  So, on your front page they need a link to the earrings for them to view them.

If you consider that most people when searching Google will only look at the top 5 listings because it's easier, it gives you an indication of how much effort a customer will put in to finding what they want on your website. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A-Z of Selling Your Handmade Jewellery / Selling Your Handmade Silver Jewellery

Next week I will be attending the Dorset County Show, so I won't be updating my blog with the A-Z, but this week is

How many people are 'turned off' by you using phrases that they don't understand?
 It's important to try and remember the words you used to use before you began making and selling your handmade silver jewellery and remember the knowledge (or probably lack of it) you had.

For instance when I talk about Sterling Silver - what does that actually mean to a customer.  They know to ask, is it sterling silver, but do they know what it means?  Silver describes a variety of precious metals - for instance the silver is mixed with copper to harden it, so sterling silver is 925 silver and 75 parts copper - but there are other grades of silver around. Tibetan silver for instance, is vastly inferior quality and do the customers understand this?  Fine silver is 999 parts silver and 1 part copper (usually produced by precious metal clay workers) - so a better quality silver, but much softer and would be pretty useless for a ring which is frequently worn. Sterling Silver is the minimum quality of silver which is accepted by the Assay Offices.  Anything less which is sent for hallmarking by a British silversmith, would be destroyed!

Hallmarking is a another one which customers have very little knowledge of.  Again, I'm asked 'is it hallmarked?' - but do they understand what that means? You can bet that the majority don't.  It's worthwhile explaining in a little more detail what they have to look for to ensure that they know what silver hallmarks look like. The more people who understand, the less they're likely to get ripped off!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Come and visit me

I will be attending a show where you can come and see my jewellery and have a chat. I will be available for the 5 days Friday 5th August - Tuesday 9th August. I will also be demonstrating my craft.
I'll look forward to seeing you there!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A-Z of Selling Your Handmade Jewellery / Selling Your Handmade Silver Jewellery

This week's letter in the A- Z of Selling your Handmade Jewellery / Handmade Silver Jewellery is
I for Insurance
If a craftsperson is undertaking fairs /exhibitions etc then the minimum insurance they will need is public liability insurance. Supposing a customer were to trip over your draping table cloth and injure themselves - can you afford to pay out several thousand pounds in compensation? - and that's after the solicitor fees!!

For craftworkers, public liability insurance is reasonably inexpensive.  I had a policy last year which cost me approximately £55 and this included product liability (ie if my product injured someone).  An example of this perhaps would be if a post on a butterfly backed earring broke off in someone's ear.
Clearly I can't specifically recommend an insurer, however I can tell you who I have subsequently insured with (following an increase in premium by £20 in one year).  I've never needed to claim, so I don't know how good they are on paying out - but... I'm insured with £5 million public liability (compared to £1 million last year) and have public and product liability within the policy.

I discovered AIR -  for artists.  It's a membership organisation which automatically provides insurance when becoming a member.  Once you're a member, you can download the insurance documents.  The cost for being a member of AIR for me.... which incidentally is a great online resource and sends out magazines (either online or paperbased depending on your membership choice) was £30 the year!  You can also post details on the 'what's on' listings plus an image on the interface, as well as review and comments.  It covers craft workers - but double check if it covers you for specifics relating to your craft.  For example it doesn't cover 'hot works' when you're out exhibiting.

As I say, I can't recommend it - I can just say that it covers me for what I want and I found it extremely reasonable in price too..

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A-Z of Selling Your Handmade Jewellery / Selling Your Handmade Silver Jewellery

The A - Z of selling your handmade jewellery / selling your handmade silver jewellery
This week's letter is:
H for Handmade or Hand Made or Handcrafted or Hand Crafted.
If you are wanting to sell your jewellery or indeed any product which you've made by hand - the question is, what do you call it?  Handmade, hand made, handcrafted or hand crafted.  You need to understand how your customers would think and what would they call it?

There are very useful tools on the internet - a tool which provides an idea for free as to how your customers think is provided by Google.  Having typed in the phrases it will tell you based on the country you search how many monthly searches occur for the particular country.
So for the United Kingdom:
Handmade - 450,000 searches
Hand Made - 301,000 searches
Handcrafted - 201,000 searches
Hand Crafted - 27,100 searches

This gives a clear indication that Handmade and Hand Made is far more popular in cutsomers minds than the word Handcrafted/Hand crafted.

Around the world - the same pattern is evident with the following:
Handmade - 2,740,000 searches
Hand Made - 1,500,000 searches
Handcrafted - 1,000000 searches
Hand Crafted - 201,000 searches

This is why I've chosen to name my jewellery Handmade Silver Jewellery

Monday, 11 July 2011

Free Photograph of Pearls

Free Image from clip art of Pearls
For anyone who wants a picture of pearls for advertising - here's one for you. It's free to use for your own purposes. I hope it's useful to you.

Monday, 4 July 2011

A -Z of Selling Handmade Silver Jewellery / Selling Jewellery

It's the letter G this week in the A-Z of Selling Handmade Silver Jewellery Blog but obviously it can apply to any art wares being sold.

G.  Gallery / Galleries

So how do you go about selling in Galleries?
Galleries tend to mostly work on the basis of sale or return for your goods. Work on a rough guide of 40% commission with 20% VAT - so if you're not VAT registered (ie turnover of less than £73000) then your prices need to take into account this amount being taken by the VAT man.  They will also generally want you to provide jewellery boxes/packaging for your items.  As a general rule they will settle your account on a monthly basis for any sales in the previous month.

If you sell online or in other outlets it's vital that your prices don't vary from gallery to shop to online.  Imagine how a customer would feel if they bought one of your items in a gallery and then went online and found you selling it at a cheaper price because you're not having to pay the fees to the gallery.  It doesn't take much to see that they will go back to the gallery and complain!  So, you'll have lost an outlet as well as annoyed the gallery immensly.  Work out your normal prices based on the fact that you might sell to a gallery in the future if you haven't already got your jewellery into one yet.

Once you've worked out your prices, do some research and find out which galleries you'd like your jewellery to be in.  If you can, there's no substitute for visiting them with some examples of your work and asking.  Letters do tend to get 'lost' in a pile of correspondence and ignored.  Try telephoning first to make an appointment - but if you're in the area and are wearing your jewellery and spot a gallery you like the look of - there's never any harm wandering in and asking on the offchance.

The other option is to join a reputable association (eg. Association of Contemporary Jewellery). These organisations will have local co-ordinators with meetings regularly organising group exhibitions in galleries.
Outlets for Lesley H Phillips Jewellery

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The A- Z of Selling Your Handmade Jewellery

Continuing with my theme of the A-Z of Making and Selling your handmade  silver jewellery /handmade jewellery I have decided to run with the selling alphabetically first and then in later blogs discuss the making of silver jewellery - ie tools/ equipment and practices.
So: This week I am focussing on the letter F
  • F for Free Press

Dorchester Life Glossy Magazine
Take a look at this 2 page article in the Dorchester Life Glossy Magazine.  This is a monthly magazine for the county town of Dorset.  A completely free write up!

What better way to let people locally know what you do and where they can buy your jewellery than getting this publicity for absolutely nothing?

How do you go about it?

First of all you have to have something newsworthy - seems obvious, but find something about your wares/you that stands out from everyone else.  You can see from this article headline that when I had a piece of my jewellery featured in Vogue this was my USP (Unique Selling Point).

A lot of press prefer you to have written the article (although in this case the photographer and reporter visited me to write the story). So, you can do it in one of two ways.  Contact all the local press with the headline and see if anyone responds or write an article and send it to them.  Obviously consider your products and consider what people read the magazine/paper that you are contacting.

The article should be approximately 300 words and written in the 3rd person and the title should be all about the USP.  Ensure that you have  plenty of quotes in the article for example " It's pleasing considering the financial climate, how many discerning people are willing to pay for quality" she says Ensure that there's a point of action within the article for your customers to find you - for example I specifically contacted Dorchester Life because Dorset Art Weeks was running (a bi-annual event which runs for a fortnight).  This ensured that customers who read the article could come and visit me during Dorset Art Weeks.

If you are considering placing an advert in a magazine/paper - then combine this with negotiations for a free write up too.  I placed an advert in the Blackmore Vale for the Dorset Art Weeks.
Blackmore Vale Article
The rectangular box was my advert and the rest of the writing and photograph on the page was negotiated for free.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dorchester Life

Having received a visit from the local Dorset Evening Echo reporter (Ruth who writes for the Dorchester Life Glossy Magazine), I will no doubt be having another lovely article printed about my jewellery and I.

This is the fantastic artical which Ruth wrote last year,

I'm expecting it to be out in the July edition.

The magazine is full of interesting articles relating to Dorchester and Dorchester people, together with great ideas for home and beauty and plenty of inspiration for the gardener too.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

June Exhibition

Throughout the month of June, a range of my jewellery (some of which has not been exhibited previously) is available to view and purchase at an exhibition at Fuggles Art Gallery, Mangerton Mill, Mangerton Nr Bridport Dorset.

The exhibition is being held jointly with fellow artist Mark Megilly, photographer.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Horse Jewellery

I thought I'd have a little change this week as I received confirmation that items from my Horse Jewellery Collection  will be sold alongside this special major exhibition opening 22nd October at the National Army Museum in Chelsea.  It looks like an extremely interesting exhibition.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A - Z of How to Make and Sell Handmade Silver Jewellery

Letter E
  • Process 
The controlled corrosion of a surface using acids to create decorative or textured patterns.
The acid eats away at the metal until it is removed from the acid and rinsed.  Areas of the metal not to be etched are covered with a stop-out in the for of a varnish, a black bitumen-based liquid or a mixture of beeswax, bitumen and rosin. As the acid sometimes eats in to the edges of the work, despite the stop-out then it's important to ensure that there is extra metal around the pattern which has been scribed into the work, so that this can be pierced away later.  Anneal, pickle and rinse and clean thoroughly - the lines made with the scribe will now be visible. Paint stop-out up to the lines and along all the edges (or alternatively paint the stop-out and allow to dry, then scratch the design into the stop-out).
Immerse the piece into the nitric acid/water solution (4:1 of water to nitric acid). The etch will occur quicker if the acid is warm.
Rinse well when the required depth is achieved - keep checking by brushing with a feather whilst raising from the acid.
Remove the stop-out with white spirit.
  • Tools
Etching Bath
Refer to letter A - for details of the acid bath used for pickling.
"I use a slow cooker which has worked perfectly for me to do this job.  I use one for etching and one for the safety pickle salts.  The cost of these 2 units from a local cooking shop - less than £20 each!"

  • Selling
  • Selling your handmade silver jewellery / Selling your handmade jewellery / selling your handmade goods
When exhibiting your work it's important to have 'show pieces' which are unlikely to sell as well as a selection of jewellery which is more likely to sell to recoup the costs of exhibiting your work.  With exhibition venues costing anything from £50 - £2500 it's naturally key to cover your costs!
Think about the venue that you're attending - is it a venue which will attract trade buyers or galleries or mostly customers? Arrange your exhibition stand to play mostly to the attendees.
Many times I've heard the phrase that it was a 'good day' when the seller covered their exhibition fee.  I personally disagree with this if no further business is forthcoming.  How many people should be satisfied with working for £0 and selling their jewellery for £0 - because this is what it amounts to!  Surely, a good day should be when the cost of the goods, the exhibition fee, expenses to and from the exhibition AND have been paid for the hours that you've spent manning the exhibition are covered?
Analyse the exhibition and really see if it was commercially viable before considering doing it again.
A lot of sellers are happy that their business cards have been taken - just how many follow ups are received?  Do you question where the caller has obtained your details?  If not, how do you know the call asking for a certain item of jewellery has stemmed from the exhibition?  Again, if no follow ups are received - then that's more expense because it's highly likely that business cards were taken and then thrown in the bin as soon as the customer got home.... and you have to order more business cards!
In summary - realistically cost out how much the exhibition has cost you - estimate an hourly rate of pay that you'd be happy to work for.  Calculate the cost of materials sold and then work out whether you should apply to participate in the exhibition again in the future.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The A-Z of how to make and how to sell handmade silver jewellery

Letter D
  • Process
Doming a circle can be achieved by the aid of a doming block and dapping tools.  Place the disc in the doming block and use the dapping tool with a hammer to form the disc into a dome.The majority of steel doming blocks are sold with similarly metal dapping tools.  However, if you have a texture on the disc which is to be domed then the metal on metal could damage the texture.  Wooden dapping tools are available. As mentioned in a previous blog, wood on metal prevents stretching of the metal and will therefore protect the textured disc.
Take a look at the textured disc earrings to see how the texture can be protected with wooden dapping tools.

  • Tools

Depth Gauges

When making silver jewellery, the depth and diameter of a piece of metal (sheet or wire) is vital when the metals become mixed in the store. For instance when making a gem setting the calcualtion includes the depth of the sheet and if the depth is incorrect then the gem won't fit! I have purchased several depth gauges - electronic and manual slide depth gauges.  The electronic gauge is brilliant - but when the battery begins to fail then the readings cannot be reliable and who knows when the batteries are running out?  The best depth gauge I have in my toolkit is the dixiem gauge and it's also relatively inexpensive to purchase.

  • Selling your products / How to sell your handmade silver jewellery /  how to sell your jewellery

Do you sell at fairs?  The golden rule for selling your products at fairs and events is to make it easy for the customer.  What does this mean?  Make it easy for the customer to view - if they have to bend down to look at every item on your stand - they may well do this for a couple of  items but then get fed up. If you're displaying on a table, it's important to have height built into your display.  Usually layer the height from nearest the customer on the table level to build upwards, so their eyes are drawn from the table up to you. By the time they've looked from the table upwards they'll be meeting your eyes and will be ready for a chat!

The other important factor for customers is that they like to touch.  This has to be balanced with security.  If you can display pendants open to the customer, but with the chain itself attached in some way, you're achieving your security and also enabling the customer to get a good look at your wares.

Sometimes putting items in a cabinet can have the effect of customers knowing that it's 'top notch' in that cabinet and therefore they'll ask to see them - but if all your jewellery is in a cabinet, then it becomes too much 'hassle' for the customer and they'll walk away.

If you get the balance right then you get an attractive looking stand which invites customers to view and buy your jewellery.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A - Z of How to Make and Sell Handmade Silver Jewellery

Letter C
  • Process

When thinking of casting, it's widely believed that many items will be exactly the same.  True, but also a cast item can be completely individual!  To produce more than one item to be exactly the same a mould is made - for instance from, silicone or vulcanised rubber.
Vulcanised Rubber moulds can last 20 years or more but shrink around 5% hence going one size smaller. You have to use a master that will stand 150 degrees centigrade and high pressure for an hour. So in practice your master must be made of metal or similar material. Rubber moulds take a couple of hours to make and are ready to use right away.

Silicone moulds do not shrink and do not need heat so you can mould directly from fragile materials such a leaf or a wax master. But they are hydroscopic and deteriorate in sunlight, are liable to tear if abused and have a life of about 2 years. Silicone moulds take about 2 hours to make and need 24 hour set properly before they can be used.
One-off casts can be produced by sand casting , lost wax casting, cuttlefish casting - these moulds can only be used once.  Another form of casting is with PMC. This is a relatively new process and doesn't need excessively expensive tools or equipment, but does allow the maker to produce a 3 dimensional object from silver without the expertise which would be required from a traditional silversmith.  The PMC (precious metal clay) is silver mixed with clay and can be formed into a shape and then fired to remove the clay. The item which is left, is silver (either 925 sterling  or 999 fine).PMC does shrink by about 10% and the finished item, in my opinion is more brittle than silver wire or sheet - I certainly wouldn't use it to make a ring! - the use that a ring gets over the years, I believe could mean the ring cracking later on it's life.  PMC hasn't been around long enough perhaps for this theory to be tested yet.

If I needed to make a starfish as a traditional silversmith, I would cut out 2 starfish shapes, dome them gently and set them back to front. They would then be hollow.  Take a look at the starfish earrings that I have made from PMC - they're solid 925 silver and because they didn't take me hours to make (which they could have done if I'd used traditional silversmithing methods), this makes them more cost effective for the purchaser.  A lot of PMC artisans create the hole by creating it during the PMC shaping process - I prefer to drill a hole afterwards and natuarlly I solder the jump ring through.  PMC workers don't even need to know how to solder but it is most certainly an artform in it's own right.

  • Tools/Equipment
Copper Tongs

Having discussed Acid Baths previously - one piece of vital equipment for the sulphuric acid bath is a pair of copper tongs. The heated item of silver needs to be put in / removed from the acid bath.  If another metal is used, then any item of silver in the acid bath turns pink! - the acid needs to be thrown away and the 'damaged' pieces require a lot of emery paper to get rid of the pink.
Plastic tongs are also ok to use in the acid bath, but it's best to buy copper in the first place because it you want to pick up a hot item from the soldering block - then quite clearly the plastic tongs won't be any use

  • Selling your products / How to sell your handmade silver jewellery /  how to sell your jewellery

So, you've designed the most amazing piece of jewellery - but how do you stop someone copying it?

Copyright protects 2 dimensional work - so photographs of your work can be copyrighted.

ACID is a member based organisation raising awareness of Intellectual Property Rights - (IP).
 So how do you protect 3 dimensional work such as jewellery design?
You do not have to apply for intelectual property rights, but ensure you keep very good records of when the design was first recorded in material form and when products made to the design were first made available for sale or hire.
This information may be useful if someone challenges your rights in the design or if you believe someone is infringing your rights and you wish to take the alleged infringer to court.
The hallmark is an excellent proof of the year of manufacture - I always keep the first item made!
For items which don't require a hallmark, when I upload the jewellery onto my website I print the page which alwasy prints the 'online' date and the proof is immediately available as to when it was first available for sale. Alongside this, I keep accurate records of how I made the jewellery.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A - Z of How to Make and Sell Handmade Silver Jewellery

Letter B
  • Process
Bangle Mandrels

When creating a hand hammered cuff bracelet, if you were to have the correct length and width of silver sheet to start, then as soon as you hand hammer the sheet it changes shape.This results in having to re cut or re file the bangle to the desired shape.  As any silversmith knows - this can result in hours of extra work!
Bangle mandrels are often available in metal, however if you find one in wood then you can avoid the need to reshape the cuff bracelet.
First of all shape your cuff bracelet and then wrap it around a wooden bangle mandrel.  Using a metal planishing hammer you can then create the hand hammering without affecting the shape of the cuff bracelet.  It does take more hammering because you're not hammering metal on metal, so you do need a very large planishing hammer - but the results are most definitely stunning!
Take a look at some examples of my  hand hammered cuff bracelets:

  • Tools/Equipment

The bible for silversmiths is Oppi Untracht - Jewelry Concepts and Technology.  How much does it cost? Well a quick search on one of the leading sellers of books on Google shows a second hand, hardcopy fully illustrated copy of this selling for just over £230. Phew!  What a price - but it is most definitely the best book a silversmith can own.  (the non illustrated hardcover version is considerably cheaper).
I own the fully illustrated hardcover copy and I found it at an antique fair a few years ago.  It's definitely worth checking book stalls if you attend car boot sales/flea markets or fairs because you never know what might be there.  I had just started silversmithing and was intrigued to see a pile of silversmithing books - 6 in all. A couple I've still only flicked through, but Oppi Untracht was amongst the selection.  I didn't know at the time how invaluable a reference book this was (and certainly didn't know how expensive it was!) , but I asked the stall holder how much they were charging for the 6 books.  I struggled back to my car with these 6 books for a mere £15.
There really are bargains to be had - lots of people start silversmithing as a hobby and just give up - so keep your eyes peeled!

  • Selling your products / How to sell your handmade silver jewellery /  how to sell your jewellery

Believe in your own product.  If you don't believe how good it is, then no-one else will!  It's hard to stay confident when you're sat behind a craft stall and someone is stood in front of you saying something like "Oh, I don't like that!" or "that's expensive, I bought a silver bracelet in Tibet/India for a quarter of the price when I was there last year" or  when the person next to you is selling imported jewellery at a fraction of your price.

Has this happened to you?  What did you do? Email me and let me know:

What should you do in these circumstances?  If someone doesn't like your jewellery - ignore it!  After all, think of Marmite - love it or hate it  - that's how they sell it!

If someone's bought an item abroad very cheaply and are happily telling people who are looking at your stand about it !*! grrrr... Ask them all about it.  Needless to say when they describe it, it'll be completely different from what you're selling and highly likely it'll be machine made.  However if,  for instance they describe a hammered cuff bracelet (which could be similar to yours), then explain that the depth of the silver you use/width of the cuff bracelet for STERLING silver determines the price as well as the craftmanship that goes into the making of it.  Gently say, that silver isn't all the same as there are different grades of silver and sterling silver is the only silver that can be sold as such in the United Kingdom. (As an example - for your information only - not to totally upset the person who's standing in front of you.... Indian silver is generally less pure than sterling silver and Tibetan silver can sometimes have a low content of 30% rather than sterling which has 92.5%!).  It's also probably not worth getting involved with discussions on poor working conditions that some people suffer abroad/ or about 'handmade jewellery' where it's highly likely been produced by a machine!  If they want to argue a point though, then why not show your knowledge?  It might make the people around them realise that you are actually an expert as well as a designer/maker.

If someone next door to you is selling machine made imported jewellery and selling it as hand crafted.  Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do except when people visit your stand greet them and tell them that you make everything yourself.  If they look at an item in particular, start explaining just what has gone into the making of it.  The person next door can't do that, can they?  Plus, don't forget - the person next door will be selling jewellery that's availabe everywhere the world over.  So, whilst talking to your customer explain how lovely it is when you see people wear your jewellery, because you know they've bought something that's unique and no-one else could ever have the same as them. Each one you make is completely individual.  Chat a bit about how you like to buy direct from craftspeople yourself (think of an example of something you've bought) and go on to say about how lovely it was and how you felt as if you'd bought something truly special.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The A - Z of handmade silver jewellery - and how to sell. Starting with A

I quite often get asked by people if they could carry out work experience with me, offering their services in my studio for free for the benefit of my advice and some experience in a silversmith's studio.  I've also seen people who've got 'carried away' with the idea of making silver jewellery, give up their job, rent a workshop in order to make a living from it when they've only been making jewellery for a few months. Naturally, after the rental period has run out, they've realised that it's cost them more than they've made and actually despite the fact that they thought they'd sell out at their first event - they came back with more than they went with(having bought from other stand holders!). Plus, buying tools can be a very expensive business and as I was largely self trained, I've learned to find tools that will do a job and don't necessarily cost the earth,  The same applies to techniques: the standard method of making something can sometimes be a long and drawn out process as 'that's the way I was tought' rather than discovering new and often easier methods of doing it.  So, I thought I'd put a blog together with an A-Z of handmade silver jewellery making, but also for anyone who sells handmade goods an A - Z of selling. 
The topics I intend to cover will generally be: Tools, Techniques,  Selling

  • Tools
Acid Baths
 After silver has been heated  in preparation for soldering it needs to be put into a mix of  heated sulphuric acid and water.  The same suppliers who sell the sulphuric acid (known as safety pickle salts) also sell the 'pickling machines / pickling units '.  So, how much do these cost?  Just over £200 + Vat,=£240, plus delivery, so start off with £250.  One big expense to start the jewellery making career.  But it needn't be...  What do these units do? they heat the water and sulphuric acid.  I use a slow cooker which has worked perfectly for me to do this job.  I use one for etching and one for the safety pickle salts.  The cost of these 2 units from a local cooking shop - less than £20 each!
  • Techniques
All metals react in similar ways with regards to compression, hammering, rolling etc, but the degree of how they react differs with each metal.  As a silversmith, silver is naturally what I'll discuss but the principals are the same for all metals.  When the silver is worked (as above) it becomes work hardened and can fracture. So to avoid this, the metal needs to be annealed whilst in the process of making the jewellery.  The annealing process is done by the use of torches - heat the silver, hold the heat and allow it to cool to cause thermal recrystallisation in order to relieve the stresses built up in the silver.
  • Selling
  • Selling your handmade silver jewellery / Selling your handmade jewellery / selling your handmade goods
This is probably one of the key factors that designers need to consider before they begin the designing process.  As an 'oldie' of this world, I see some wonderful designs by young people who are delighted with their fantastic work of art. For instance a ring with an absolutely stunning butterfly standing proud  from the ring about 3cm high in full flight, all worked in wire and taking several hours to make.  Yes this is a stunning creation and yes it is beautiful and yes it will be widely admired.  However, who will buy it?  One day, someone will.  In the meantime it will sit with the designer/maker for a long time.  Firstly, the bullion has been paid for and secondly, year on year it will be on the accounts as stock in hand, so any new bullion purchased will increase the stock and therefore the stock in hand figure will be greater at the end of the year than at the beginning - which meas a greater liability for tax.  The idea should be - handmade craft should be made to sell.  The reason why this beautiful butterfly won't sell quickly?  A 19 year old would LOVE it and be able to carry it off on their equally beautiful young hands (if it fits of course!). However, can you see a 35 - 60 year old woman wearing it? Think about the people and what their daily tasks are.  Shopping, cleaning, working, looking after kids etc etc.  The fine and dainty ring wouldn't last 5 minutes. That's what they'll think about and would you spend £100 - £150 on something that you could only wear on very rare occasions?  So to the 19 year old.... they've fallen in love with it - but they're at Uni and every penny is being spent on books and living.  So, the stunning ring sits there until one day someone buys it as a very special gift as long as they know the recipient's ring size.

Therefore to make jewellery to sell - work out before you start what is the age of the person who will buy your jewellery.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

What do you expect from a Craft Fair?

What do you expect from a craft fair?  The obvious answer to this would be.... craft.  However, would you expect it to be craft made by the person manning the stand?  Or would you expect to see items which have been handmade by someone else in the UK? Or perhaps crafted abroad? Or would you ever expect to see items which have been made by a machine? Or ...tat!

In answer to these questions - you may see anything!  I've shown my work at craft fairs which actually have been all of these.... Again, the theme of this follows on from my previous blog - the general public is not getting what they expect unless they are attending a craft fair which is selling genuine handmade goods.  I was astounded to attend a craft fair once to see that someone was treating it like a car boot sale.  They literally had emptied the contents of their 'tat' bin and were selling it on a stand next to a lady who made the most beautiful felt bags which she'd painstakingly made at home.

I naturally pay more attention to silver jewellery when I attend any craft fairs and in my home county a lady attends many craft fairs and sells imported, machine manufactured silver jewellery, set with gemstones which makes no pretence of being hand crafted - but she sells well at every 'craft' event she attends.  I on the other hand, was at one craft fair with her and had my first and last craft fair where I didn't sell a single item.  Why? because she imports the silver jewellery made into very nice looking pendants, rings, bracelets and earrings (nothing that can't be bought in the shops anywhere in the country of course) and she pays less for the completed items than I pay to purchase my silver bullion BEFORE I've even started working to make a unique piece of jewellery.  Of course the customer believing it to be 'craft' fair will choose the vastly cheaper option.  Do they question why it's so much cheaper?  Think back to the San Jose Chilean mining disaster last year - the health and safety record of this mine was particularly appalling.  There is no guarantee that this imported jewellery didn't come from a similar mine - destroying people's lives for cheap and cheerful silver jewellery to be sold in the UK.  My bullion is only purchased from dealers who adhere to the Golden Rules of mining - which ensures the workers and the surrounding countryside is protected.  People hear the words 'blood diamonds' but who really knows what this means? or if they do, in all honesty who thinks too much about it?

I now personally only attend fairs where I know that genuine craft is being sold.

The problem is that there's a conflict of interest with craft fairs.  The organisers are wanting to raise money from the event by selling the stands to the 'craft makers' and the customers attend expecting craft, so they don't necessarily think of it being anything other than craft when they attend.  However, if the organisers want to sell all their tables anyones money is as good as the next persons!  This is a generalisation because of course there are some very good craft fair organisers - most notably ones who require pictures/examples of the work being sold on the day.  I know THEN that this is a craft fair that I'm happy to attend to sell my work.

Q: How many ways can the general public be hoodwinked?
A: Quite a lot
Q: What measures are put in place to protect them? 
A: Sometimes it does seem - very little!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

What is the definitition of handmade silver jewellery?

I recently blogged regarding a company going into administration and mentioned that although initially when I used to visit, there was a lot of handmade silver jewellery I had found it lacking of late, despite seeing adverts on Google for them selling handmade silver jewellery.  So I thought I'd discuss the concept of handmade silver jewellery.

First of all I'll start off with what I deem to be handmade silver jewelley - an item that is completely made by hand.  However, other people's definititions of handmade silver jewellery are radically different.  If a person has any input into a piece of jewellery which is silver, then this seems to be described as handmade silver jewellery.  Having given a talk on silversmithing about a month ago, I researched some websites which did just this. I found one which sold contemporary handmade silver jewellery from Mexico.  The pendant was machine made (cast from a mold), the bail was machine made and I can only presume that someone in Mexico had squeezed the bail through the jump ring at the top of the pendant to enable it to be described as handmade. It was a butterfly pendant in silver measuring 2cm x 3cm and cost £26 excluding the chain, plus postage. The purchaser would believe that they've bought an item of jewellery which has been made by hand and for the price it would seem to be a good buy.  However, when you consider how cheap silver is in Mexico being one of the largest exporters of silver and how cheap it is to mass produce cast items of jewellery such as this, then is the buyer getting a good deal?  The answer definitely has to be a resounding 'NO'.  To my mind they are being hoodwinked! 

Before I became a silversmith, I was bought a gift of a 'handmade silver ring' and I loved it, it was extremely expensive and I thought, a 'one off'.  Only to discover later when I became a silversmith, understood hallmarking and how to make silver jewellery myself, that it was machine made and imported and the person giving me the gift had been totally ripped off.  There could not have been any element of 'handmade' in this ring -so the trader was most definitely breaking trades description. 

But whilst there is no accurate definition of handmade silver jewellery, then ANY item which has had any input from a human hand, no matter how miniscule can be described as handmade. 
So where does this leave the buyer?  I think that these leaves the buyer in a very difficult situation because unless they ask the retailer to describe how the item has been made, then they really are not afforded any protection from people selling handmade silver jewellery.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Hi Ho Silver Ltd in Administration

An interesting week in the silver jewellery world this week.  On Saturday 2nd April, I heard that Hi Ho Silver in Dorchester was shut.  The local boutique (Every Cloud) was inundated with people walking to the other end of the street to view her collections.  Good news for her, but what had happened to Hi Ho Silver?  On Monday, I noticed the website had a message posted stating that they would 'be back soon' and by Tuesday a blog was posted by them to state that due to difficult conditions on the high street, Hi Ho Silver had been put into Administration.  The website had been purchased by the former owners and that they would be operating as mobile events.
What causes companies to go into Administration? Apart from the fact that the company owes more money than it can afford to pay - so the Administrator's job is to redeem assets and pay off the people that are owed - priority order being for taxes first!  Any Limited company ensures that the individuals in charge don't have their personal assets seized which means that they can use their personal assets if they wish to start again if that's what they wish to do.
Bank's can call in debts, putting companies into Administration if they believe that a situation of debt will only get worse or refuse to lend further thus making it impossible to continue trading.  Quite often over expansion can create such problems, coupled with sales not matching the expansion. With numerous shops on the high streets of South West England and the rent and rates payable, staff wages to pay and reduced sales one can assume to be the key factor leading to the demise of Hi Ho Silver on the high street.
However, the question also comes into play (which is what interests me the most), the phrase 'Handmade Silver Jewellery'   I noted quite often that Hi Ho Silver had advertised with Google 'Handmade Silver Jewellery' and yet when I looked, I found that I was hard pushed to find anything which wasn't machine manufactured.  So what is the definition of handmade silver jewellery? A topic for another blog, I think!
It's sad to see another institution disappear from the high street - although when there is a resurgence of buying quality handmade items within the United Kingdom is it not perhaps surprising when a company has reduced sales if their prices are the same as 'handmade in the UK' but the majority are machine made imports?

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spring has sprung

Welcome to my new blog. 
As Spring seems to finally have arrived, I felt it was time to begin my blog which so many people have suggested I write.... it's only taken since January (yes, one of the New Year Resolutions that kept being put back!).  However, as the daffodils waved at me in the garden I knew it was time I stopped procrastinating and just write.

This week has been a busy week.  So far, I've had three enquiries from boutiques around the Country wanting to stock my handmade silver jewellery. I made the decision to sell to shops and boutiques outside Dorset only two months ago and since then my jewellery has moved further afield.

Today however, I called into my local stockist - Every Cloud Boutique in Dorchester.  Anyone would think the owner Charlotte, had known that I would be visitng today - because the  two customers who came into her shop whilst I was there, bought items of my jewellery.  Lovely for me to see that it's so popular and also great to see that my jewellery clearly suits all ages. The silver daisy jewellery which I launched on 1st March is certainly proving popular and my silver hearts - the heart twist set being the most unusual of my heart jewellery is always a big attraction.  The customers were probably about 35 years apart in age and both bought some of my jewellery for themselves and for their mothers - how nice is that?  It appears then, that my jewellery designs can span three generations.....