Saturday, August 27, 2011

What are you worth?

Pricing and profit sometimes seem to be dirty words when talking about handmade goods. It's all about the urge to create, right? But what about the reality that in order to be able to create, we need to be able to sustain our business and ourselves?

It's funny--ask someone if the company or organization pays them what they are worth, and they'll probably readily admit "No! I definitely deserve to be paid more!" So why is it, when we are the ones in charge, we are so reluctant to give ourselves a living wage?

"Pricing and profit sometimes seem to be dirty words when talking about handmade goods."

I have been doing a lot of thinking about pricing structure lately. I've realized that if I don't begin pricing my creations like I am in a business, I won't be able to afford to keep creating. Making almost anything costs money, not just for supplies, but in my labor. If I am under-charging myself, I will burn out from the pace that I need to keep just to make cheaper items to sell (notice I didn't say cheaply *made*--there's a huge difference). I will certainly become frustrated, and most definitely working on my creations will become a chore--and nobody likes doing chores.

I plan on doing some research, and I will happily share my finding with you, though I know not everyone will agree with how I decide to price my creations. And that is OK. We all need to find that balance between allowing our business to not just survive, but thrive, while staying true to ourselves.

But for now, I challenge everyone to look at the hourly wage you are "paying" yourself. It may take a little bit of calculating if you haven't been breaking your pricing formula down already, but do it. See the number. And ask yourself, are you getting paid what you are worth?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Conquering Fear

At different times in my life, people have told me that I appear courageous. In some ways, yes, I am pretty fearless. But when it comes to being creative and putting myself "out there", I often find myself so frozen by fear that I look at the raw materials in front of me, and simply walk away.

That is really, really sad.

When we make something by hand, and especially if we try to sell it, it becomes very easy to identify one's creative identity with those things that others "approve" of through their act of purchasing. This is more than just a good business practice of producing what we know our customers want. Those who have the urge to create know that this urge doesn't give a hoot about what's trendy or selling well. But our egos do. And our egos can overtake our thoughts, telling us that anything new or untested in the market isn't worth our time. What if you spend two hours on this necklace design and no one buys it? What if no one else likes that color combination in your hand and that scarf sits in your shop forever? What if you try and fail?

If you fail? So what.

What if we all make a pact to step outside of our comfort zone? At least once a week, or even once a month, we choose different materials to create with, or try a new design or technique? Set aside an hour or two and just play. What you end up with may be godawful ugly, or it may surprise you with its beauty.

I've made this pact with myself recently. When I make jewelry, I tend to string beads in a nice, orderly pattern...which is classic, right? And boring. Really boring. So I am forcing myself to step away from the beading wire and finally try all of those wire-wrapping techniques, and to use other materials to compliment my lampwork beads. My first bracelet exceeded my expectations:

So stop letting fear dictate what you create. And start letting your creativity be your best friend--and business partner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quiet doesn't mean without thought....

I've been taking some time to really think about this blog. I was thinking for some time that I wasn't sure what my readers would want from a blog. Then, I realized, I wasn't sure what *I* wanted from this blog.

The need to be creating something is a need I'm sure many of you recognize. This blog is as much a part of that need as crafting a glass bead or piece of jewelry. And, like many of you, my need to create is coupled with a need to share that creation with others. That's why many of us take it as a personal affront when a piece of jewelry doesn't sell, or no one comments on a blog, or someone walks past our painting without a glance to admire another; we are creating so we can connect. When someone doesn't pick up the lifeline we've thrown out to them, it stings.

                                                                   Source: via RocĂ­o on Pinterest

This blog is an attempt to connect with other artists. I've been hesitant to put any of my own work up on this blog, because I don't want to abuse it as an advertisement. But I am thinking differently about this lately. I can't ask others to share if I'm not ready to do so myself. I need to take risks. I need to be brave. I need to fail miserably at some things, and discover those hidden talents lurking within.

This doesn't mean that this blog will no longer have "handmade" as its focus. On the contrary, as handmade should be about having a piece of the creative soul within whatever it is you are creating--otherwise, what is the difference between what you make and what some factory worker churns out overseas? Not much, really.

I would still love to hear from all of you. Leave a comment, write a guest post, just reach out and connect. Just don't make the mistake that this blog is all about me. It's about us.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Handmade Should *Never* Be Cheap

Sometimes, you read another person's blog, and they are able to so succintly say what you have been thinking, you are more than willing to let them be your voice.

I had been fiddling around with Facebook, when one of those revolving ads popped up on the right hand side of the page--you know, the ones that are supposed to be tailored to our likes?

I don't know about you, but I don't like Handmade Jewelry, or handmade a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g being called cheap. Ever.

Fellow artist, Jennifer Cameron of glass addictions, reacted in much the same way at these ads. Her response on her blog provides one of the best written proclamations for why handmade objects hold such value, why they are the antithesis of "cheap."

Like I said above, sometimes someone can say what you're thinking better than you can. Please check out her post: "Handmade Jewelry. Ridiculously Cheap." Value yourself, and value handmade.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time to Play!

I love handmade toys. I think some of this is due to the fact that I love it when functional and fun can come together, and what is more fun than toys? Combine this with the fact that summer is upon us, at least in my neck of the woods, and that means more time to play, no matter what your age. Therefore, it is the perfect time of year to have toys on our Friday Fun Finds!

Share your handmade toys! What are your favorites?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are Supplies Really Necessary?

Photo Courtesy of massdistraction

 As someone who makes handmade jewelry and glass beads, I have a bead addiction problem. So, of course supplies are necessary! it really necessary for the big "handmade" sites to sell supplies as part of their offerings?

Yes, there are handmade supplies. Lampwork beads are considered as much on many sites.

But do these sites, that promote themselves as handmade, really need to scores of other supply shops, offering made in China merchandise alongside those supplies handmade one by one? Isn't this in conflict somewhat with the mission of these sites, to support the handmade lifestyle and artist?

If you are a source for handmade products, then *everything* allowed should be handmade by individual artists--even the supplies.

I'm curious to hear what other artists think about this situation--should Etsy, Artfire, and Zibbet have a supply section that allows re-sellers and importers? Is this of benefit to handmade crafters because they can in theory shop on the same site that they sell? Or is this just a ploy to cushion the earnings of the sites on the backs of handmade artists?

My opinion? I think allowing resellers and importers, even when they are properly identified, undermines the "mission" of these handmade sales venues. If you are a source for handmade products, then *everything* allowed should be handmade by individual artists--even the supplies. I would gladly do my shopping elsewhere for my crystals and chains that fill out my jewelry creations.

Let me know what you think. Let me know if my bringing this up ticks you off. Or is it a non-issue?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Fun Finds: Flight of the Butterfly

This week's Friday Fun Finds pays homage to those beautiful symbols of metamorphosis and springtime. Let us know which one is your favorite, or point us towards a beautiful handmade rendition of a butterfly that you have seen!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What are your boundaries as a handmade artist?

I was just doing a preliminary scan for this week's Friday Fun Finds when a thought came to me (scary as that is!) I had found a gorgeous piece using butterflies, and given the fact that summer is finally coming down the lane in the Northern Hemisphere, I decided to make that the theme. I found some beautiful pendants that were created using actual butterfly wings. And I wasn't sure how I felt about that.

I'm not going to list any of the pieces here, because I don't want any artist to feel I am calling them out. These pieces were drop-dead gorgeous, as you can probably imagine if you've seen how gorgeous some butterflies can be. And the artists I viewed all made reference to the fact that the butterflies they used were gained in a responsible and legal manner, and none were endangered. One even commented how part of the proceeds will go to conservation efforts, which I applaud greatly.

I have discovered a boundary for myself as an handmade artist.

However, I am still put off a bit by the idea of using a once living creature in my creations, simply for the purpose of adorning myself with its beauty. Part of me thinks I am over-reacting and being a bit prudish about the whole situation. But, I have discovered a boundary for myself as an handmade artist.

Because I entered the handmade world when I began doing jewelry and glass lampwork beads, I already knew I had a problem with cheap imports, both as an economic threat and as a ethical issue. I knew there were some gemstones and metals that were to be avoided based on mining practices and quality of goods. Those seem like pretty cut and dry boundaries, at least for me.

I am wondering if anyone else has discovered their own personal boundaries when created homemade goods. Do you avoid any chemical processes? Are there materials you won't use? Are there techniques you avoid because they can somehow be harmful?

Let us know.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Anyone want to blog??

Photo Courtesy of Maria Reyes-McDavis

While I love being an advocate for handmade and the way of the handmade artist, I am by no means an expert...mainly because the world of handmade is so incredibly diverse due to the creativity of the human spirit!

I would love to host guest bloggers from time to time on the following topics:

  • Business tips for handmade artists
  • Cool handmade ideas to make life better and more beautiful
  • How to tell if a product is truly handmade
  • Tips or techniques that you'd like to share with fellow artists
  • Any handmade topic you'd like to see addressed!
 These guest blog spots are not a place to pimp your wares, though links will be given your online sites and shops. These will be posts that have the intent of helping your fellow artists grow.

Don't worry if writing isn't your thing. I can help with the editing and making it sound "chic!" Send me your ideas at and we can chat about getting a guest blog written for the handmade masses!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A positive spin on the Urban Outfitters Debacle

Photo Courtesy of Fiona Bradley

If you travel in handmade circles, and are involved in social media, you've probably heard a lot about the Urban Outfitters PR debacle, where they have yet again been accused of stealing handmade designs. The outrage that this company has yet again failed in the originality department, choosing instead to replicate the work of handmade artists, is certainly justified.

But my first thought, after the initial frustration that the big guy was again taking advantage of the little guy,was not so negative...

Has handmade finally hit the mainstream?

If major retailers are hopping on the bandwagon, I think the answer is yes.

What does that mean for us? Now is the time to continue to educate the public on the benefits of buying handmade from local artists. This could be a pivotal moment, where we reach out and prove our worth to the skeptics, where we prove that buying from us beats buying from the big guy any day of the week.

So I issue a challenge to all artists and bloggers to post at least one reason why it's better to buy handmade from an artist than from a major retailer. We are so immersed in the handmade world, that we often lose the ability to articulate why handmade is better, since we feel it so deeply in our soul. Try to think like the average consumer, who is more concerned with economics and impulse buying. Make those people want to buy from us.

If we can do that, it won't matter what unscrupulous retailer is out there trying to make a dime off our backs. They will no longer be able to.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Handmade Luxury!

When I was a little kid, handmade frequently meant "cheap" or at least brought memories of the church bazaar craft show circuit. Not anymore!

Every once in a while, we deserve to see the luxurious side of the handmade coin. So from time to time, I will share some absolutely luxurious handmade treasures, for when we want to spoil ourselves rotten (because we do deserve it!)

Monday, May 23, 2011 the words of others

Creativity is one of those concepts that people know when they encounter it; but ask them to define creativity, and most will sputter and give a "cop-out" definition (like Webster's does), such as "the act of being creative." Very helpful, Mr. Webster.

Below are some quotes from some great minds, creative minds, and humorous minds on the essence of creativity. Enjoy!

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

     ~Scott Adams, Cartoonist

“Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.”

   ~Ray Bradbury, Writer

“The chief enemy of creativity is "good" sense.”

   ~Pablo Picasso, Artist

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

   ~Edward de Bono, Psychologist & Writer

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."

   ~Joseph Chilton Pearce, Author

“A truly creative person rids him or herself of all self-imposed limitations.” 
   ~Gerald G. Jampolsky, Psychologist & Writer

"The creative individual has the capacity to free himself from the web of social pressures in which the rest of us are caught. He is capable of questioning the assumptions that the rest of us accept."
   ~John W. Gardner, Educator


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Friday Fun Finds is Back!

One of my favorite posts was always doing the Friday Fun Finds, so of course, I had to bring them back! I love looking at the work of handmade artists, and this gives me the perfect excuse to spend some time browsing the online shops of the creative.

I'm not sure about where you live, but Spring decided to take her own, sweet time arriving this year. It felt like we were going to have barren trees and dreary, cold days forever! Then, like magic, the trees decided to rebel and unfurled their leaves--one of the sure signs that winter has been kicked to the curb. So in celebration of spring being better late than never, I offer you some beautiful handmade trees.

A gorgeous Carnelian Tree Pendant, by LOC Designs. Found in their Zibbet Shop!

Next, Magnolias no2, a beautiful fine art print, by Jessica Doyle. Found in her Etsy shop.

Finally, this Blackbird and Branches Aluminum Cuff by K. Murphy Designs. Found in their Artfire Shop.

What fun finds have you discovered in our theme of trees?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What is the appeal of handmade?

Photo Courtesy of J>Ro

One thing I hated about doing certain shows, was the fact that the show organizers often had no idea of what quality handmade really meant. I would show up with my handmade jewelry, constructed from my own handmade lampwork beads, and be next to a person selling non-imaginative jewelry, strung with cheap glass bead imports from the local craft shop.

To make things even better, these fellow "handmade" jewelry designers would often come over to my table, cooing how pretty my things were, only to drop them like a hot potato when they saw the price. And believe me, my work was underpriced, if anything. They would often follow up with comments, like, "I could never charge that much for a bracelet/necklace/earrings!"

And they shouldn't. This might offend some readers, but if you are buying a string of $3.99 beads from the local craft store, stringing them on some beading wire with a few mass-produced spacers--that really isn't in the handmade spirit, in my book.

Part of the appeal of handmade is the idea of having a one-of-a-kind product, or at least one that is created with a vision by the artist. I'm really not slamming people who use store-bought supplies (as long as they do not compromise the structural integrity of your piece--but that's another blog post!), nor I am slamming people who try to create on a budget. I've seen gorgeous pieces made from components bought at a Michael's or Jo-Anns, but they were gorgeous because they contained the artist's voice and vision. Thought and heart was put into the pieces.

There is so much more to a piece being handmade than the simple idea that is was created using one's hands. People want something that they feel they could not have created themselves. Anyone can make a pair of earrings, just like anyone can do a color-by-number, or make a bar of soap. People want to feel like they are buying an idea from the artist's mind that they can now enjoy and cherish. They want something that someone else has put some thought into, and felt compelled to create through passion for a craft.

I do realize that this is my opinion, and some out there will think handmade means something totally different. But what do you think? What is the appeal of buying handmade for your customers, or yourself?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Handmade Chic is Back!

After a long hiatus, Handmade Chic is back, hopefully on a regular basis.

I'm sure the blog is going to evolve in its own direction as time goes on, but there will remain one focus: Celebrating the Handmade Movement.

What does it mean to be handmade? Some will argue that any object made by human hands qualifies as handmade. But here, the human heart has to aid in the creation. So, you can holler all you want that something made by hand on a production line in China, India, etc., would qualify--but this is my blog, my rules, and it doesn't.

Handmade means artists are behind the creations. It means that items are made from passion for craft, not because someone is being paid a wage to crank out a product. It may mean that items are truly one-of-a-kind, simply because the nature of handmade requires it. It may mean a small production run, because there is one person doing the creating of each piece, one at a time.

Notice the word "create" popping up a lot? Handmade requires creativity to exist. An artist's eye can see simple objects, and using their hands and heart, combine them with skill, to create something useful, whimsical, or just plain beautiful.

Do you celebrate handmade? How? Let us know, we'd love to hear your ideas!