Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beaded Jewelry by Susan: The Big Transition

As you know, dear readers, from earlier posts in this blog, I've been collecting beads and designing jewelry for 18 years now. I didn't really intend in the beginning to have a business, but I started making pieces like crazy and the only way to justify making more and to pay for my newly discovered bead addiction was to share the fun by selling some of my creations. For a number of years, we did just that at regional craft shows, mainly outdoor affairs in the summertime. There's quite a bit of equipment involved if you want to do shows like that without collapsing from heat stroke or drowning in a torrent of rain (and that can happen anyway, to some degree). So, over time, we upgraded various homemade shelter and displays with more professional gear: a zip-up tent with vinyl sides and back flap; steel panels on which we hung foamcore boards with velcro cloth for attaching earrings and necklaces, a large heavy table with big display cases, and so on. We did indoor shows as well ,without the need to set up and take down the tent, but these still required display equipment, lighting, and so on.
     The shows were a lot of work, physical work in particular, and took a lot of time. Sometimes they didn't bring much financial return either. But they were fun. We traveled around our part of east central Illinois, we got outside in the summer, we met other artists and chatted face-to-face with our customers, and generally enjoyed the arts and crafts show atmosphere: art, food, people out with their kids and dogs, and so on.
    But it got to be too difficult during the past year or two, especially given some health issues for both me and my husband. We tried hiring a "roadie" to help set up and take down, but it was impossible for find someone reliable, so the process was extremely frustrating. Our final outdoor show was this past June in our hometown. After we had waited more than an hour for the "helper" to arrive, he showed up, almost immediately complaining about how hard the job was, how hot the weather was, how many other things he needed to go do.
     So he went home, and we worked to finish setting up ourselves, finding the tent zipper on the last side stuck just as the sky opened up and the rain came down in earnest. Huddled in the tent, we tried waiting out the initial storm that was soon followed by more rain, hail, and crashing thunder and then, terrifyingly, the sound of big branches breaking all around us (in the middle of a park with enormous trees). Somehow, the show sponsors hadn't realized we were there or told us the show was canceled! When the storm let up a little, we peeked out and saw everyone gone. Power lines and tree limbs were down all over town. A huge trunk had fallen near our tent, and there were big limbs near where our car was parked.
   I think you can understand why we decided to make the Big Transition to doing primarily online sales after that experience. There are two local indoor shows that we will still do, but we need to adjust the displays for easy-to-carry equipment. So the Big Transition involved trying to sell our tent and panels (not sold yet), buying small, lightweight revolving display stands to use on rented tables, and creating an etsy shop and then promoting it. As it turns out, I needed to learn so much -- computer stuff of all kinds (like starting a blog, tweeting, trying to figure out Facebook, as well as photography skills, using my newly acquired digital camera to photograph jewelry (still working on that).
     Of course, since we cancelled the rest of the summer's shows, we have a HUGE inventory of earrings (and quite a few necklaces) available. I'm dying to make more, but I'm still a long ways from getting all of the present pieces photographed and listed on etsy. And ... so far ... sales haven't been brisk. But my earrings are all beautiful and unique; they're in a wide range of styles, colors, and materials; they're all only twelve bucks (free shipping); and gift giving for the holidays is coming up soon, so I remain optimistic that we can and will make the Big Transition a success! Come by and see for yourself: http://www.beadedjewelrybysusan.etsy.com/.

No comments:

Post a Comment