Monday, July 22, 2013

Why is FREE so difficult to understand?

Warning: parts of this post will probably sound a bit whiny and self pitying, but I need to vent and organize my thoughts on the subject.

Hello! I've come to the point in my beading career (if you can call it that) where I desperately want a new start. After my last job ending in the strangest fashion, I have been unemployed for two months. I have found myself again attempting to make a business from beading jewelry, with little success. Today (or rather, yesterday afternoon), I had an epiphany. I've been going about the selling aspect of jewelry making in entirely the wrong way. My attempts at simplifying my work in order to pursue a wholesale supplying career is being severely hindered by my staunch refusal to make do with the supplies I already have on hand. My solution? Why, to get rid of any useless supplies from my hoard and the multitude of finished designs that I don't want anymore, of course!

Before I go any further, here's the link for my current finished jewelry giveaway: Just pay shipping please.

I will edit this post with the bead stash link, too. (When it's finished.) Don't worry! This is going to take a few days to clear out some things.

Now here's where the problems start. For some bizarre reason that is totally beyond me, some people panic at the thought of somebody giving something away, or simply charging shipping costs for a handmade item (not to be confused with those that flock to free things like a bower bird to blue things). And trust me, this happens every single time I give my work away, which I do once a twice a year just as a 'spring cleaning' type of thing. Here is an almost thorough Q&A to many of the questions I have been asked in the past, many with snarky and just plain realistic answers.

Unconvinced recipient: Why are you giving your jewelry away?
Me: Why not?

Unconvinced recipient: These are so beautiful!! Have you tried selling them online?
Me: Yeah. Many times with little success.

Unconvinced recipient: Have you tried selling at craft shows?
Me: Yes. That's the reason I was in the red last year. Actually, for the last four years. That's also the reason why I'm not even attempting to do shows this year.

Unconvinced recipient: But these are worth so much more!
Me: I didn't see YOU jumping to purchase it at the full retail price I had it marked at just two days ago. Btw, weren't you one of the people that just 'liked' it on Facebook, or gave it a '<3' on Etsy?

Unconvinced recipient: What about your material cost? Shouldn't that count for something?
Me: Negligible.

Unconvinced recipient: What about the amount of time that went into this necklace? You should get paid for that.
Me: In a perfect world, yes. Hey, I bet you'd love to get paid for all the hours you spend video gaming wouldn't you? Even if you don't, I bet you still enjoyed every second of the experience. That's what beading is for me. Pure enjoyment.

Unconvinced recipient: Is there something wrong with it?
Me: I wouldn't let it out of my sight if there was.

Unconvinced recipient: Why hasn't it sold already?
Me: No clue. Why haven't you purchased it yet?

Unconvinced recipient: I can't accept this.
Me: Not true. You just don't want to admit how guilty you feel for wanting something for nothing. You wouldn't turn down a hand crocheted afghan that your grandma made you, would you? That would be considered as an insult for all her hard work.

Unconvinced recipient: Why don't you just keep it?
Me: What am I going to do with this and the couple hundred other pieces I have at home? For one thing, It's not one of my most favorite pieces, otherwise it would still be at home. For another, I have way too many pieces cluttering up my house. And lastly, with old projects hanging around there is no room in my head for new ideas. It's getting kinda claustrophobic in here.

Unconvinced recipient: Why don't you like it anymore?
Me: I dunno. Just because I guess.

Unconvinced recipient: I feel like I should pay you something for it.
Me: By all means, please do! It's not like I'm trying to make a living at this or anything. I know you have cash in your wallet, but we both know that 'free' will be the winner and I will go home no richer, but you will have a lovely necklace to complement the dress you're wearing. Did you forget that this started out as a gift?

Unconvinced recipient: Won't you miss this piece or regret giving it away?
Me: Not particularly, no. What I would regret is holding onto things I really have no use for.

Unconvinced recipient: Won't this make you short on inventory?
Me: Not really. Seeing as I'm kinda stuck without a business plan of any sort, my lack of a few pieces will not in the least affect the overall scheme of things.

Convinced recipient: I actually really love it!!! I think I will take it home and wear it everywhere.
Me: About time. That's all I really wanted, wasn't it? To give it to someone who actually likes my work.

In the end, I just get plain exhausted of having to explain myself every single time. I do acknowledge that I am STILL a hobbyist with delusions of grandeur. I've been in denial for years, otherwise I wouldn't still be stuck after 12 years of this little dance. And every time I find myself unemployed with time to really put the effort in, I go in stupid little circles that get me absolutely nowhere. I simply don't have the brain capacity to see the whole picture from the beginning. (For example: JD once tried to convince me that I was entering entirely too many beading and jewelry making competitions. I actually had a ton of sticky notes with details for each. We affectionately called it the 'Sticky Note Wall of Death.' It wasn't until six months later that I finally gave up out of frustration and said, "I absolutely hate making competitive pieces. It's no fun anymore." Of course, JD was right. I on the other hand was a massive pile of tears. I have only entered a handful of pieces since, and only when I thought they had a real fighting chance.)

In another example, my mother always used to tell me that it was pointless to make the upper half of the necklace as detailed as the rest, because it's hidden by the neck or hair. I, on the other hand, was determined to make every single necklace a 'work of art' and cared not for practical design sense. It hasn't been until earlier this year that I've begun making pendants and simply hanging them from simple chains. I wish I had listened at the time; it would have saved me so much heartache and made my life today so much simpler. I'm beginning to think that she's  probably also right about just giving up beadwork entirely and simply switching to cutesy copper pendants, which I am more than capable of making. Or just screw it all and make wall art instead (like I have the space for more supplies). The 7 foot tall self portrait on my wall doesn't need any more company.

As far as marketing my work towards wholesale clients, I know that where I'm currently at WILL NOT cut it. I simply don't have that capacity and know I'm doing something utterly wrong in this respect. This is where getting rid of stuff comes in. I've found that in order for me to start over, I really have to start over. I have to banish any temptation to use what I already have. Therefore, I cannot use the current pieces I have for catalog and line sheet mock ups. Accordingly, I cannot continue to use my current bead stash to make products. I need jewelry lines, and I need simplified palettes. There is no other way. I have known this for a long time and simply refused to acknowledge the fact. I do not have the luxury of simply 'please specify silver or gold' like many artists. Beading, by nature, is very colorful, and I have to learn to reign that in a whole lot.

Sooo.....go claim something that catches your fancy. And please try not to feel too guilty about it. I really just want both my jewelry and my bead stash to find good homes. I really see no point in donating to Goodwill if I know for a fact that I can make a friend or a stranger's life just a little bit better with a piece of my heart....and my love.


  1. I love my necklace and hair comb that you made. I wore the hair combs to work (I work at a bead warehouse) and i got so many compliments on it. I love it. Thankyou for being so kind and posting it to me x

  2.'re welcome, Sarah!! I'm glad it make you and others smile. You always have such kind word for me, and a small collection of my work as well. :-)

  3. If your freebies are still available your link doesn't work.

  4. I am just getting around to reading this. I have been selling my jewelry since before the turn of the century. Sales have always been spotty. I too wanted to support myself with jewelry sales when I was unemployed/underemployed- I just did not really follow through; I am not convinced had I followed through that it would have worked. It is a tough market place.

    I am going to suggest that you visit my friend Cat's blog: Olive Bites. She has moved into wholesale. She is successful and I have found her to be generous with the knowledge she has gained.

    What I have learned for myself is that I love to create- sales are a consideration, but it is the process of creating that drives me to make jewelry.

    Best of luck to you.

  5. Thank you KJ. I believe we may be very similar in why we create jewelry: for the pure fun of it.

    I must admit that when I discovered beadwork I was 12. For two years straight I had been doing nothing but jigsaw puzzles in my spare time. Beading is like working puzzles for me. That's why I'm so drawn to it.

    I will visit your friend's blog for sure! Maybe it will help with my thought process. Thank you.

    If wholesaling doesn't work out for me, at least I will have a little less clutter in my life. :-)