Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Interview Series: Week 13 - handmadefuzzy

Edit: Wednesday 2:30pm ET:
Okay, so .. um… for those of you who tried to visit my blog any time today, you would have seen a blank post with a title.  I'm not sure what THAT was about… but it's back up now! I'm glad I have to go to the blog to get the link to post it to Facebook; otherwise I'd never have known it went up BLANK!  So, trying this again, with a post this time….
End Edit.

This week I bring you something warm and fuzzy from a fellow Zibbiter, handmadefuzzy.  This time instead of spouting about awesome products, I can actually say a little something about handmadefuzzy!  If I recall, this Zibbiter was the first I met on the forums, and someone who has been following my blog for some time.  When I saw the name in the forums where I call for people to share their story, I was very excited.  Someone I'd met and talked to off an on for a little, and now I was about to get the story behind the fantastic crafts.  Then again, it probably also helps I think this was also the first person from Zibbet to put me on a friends-list!
So without further yapping on my part, I bring you handmadefuzzy of Zibbet.

Name: handmadefuzzy
Craft: mostly knitting
Favorite material (or medium, whatever you want to call it!): anything that comes in a skein, roll, ball or on a spool. I love working with different kinds of threads, yarns, strings, beads, buttons
Most Popular Seller (whether it be online or at shows): my most popular sellers are my mice and stethoscope covers

hand knitted stethoscope cozy with stars
Stethe..scope… sock? I.. I LOVE IT.
Never heard of it, didn't think it could be done, but I love it! I need to get one of these for my sister when she finishes her Medical Assistant degree!

Mine-ICON What got you into your craft?

handmadefuzzy-ICON I have been crafting as long as I can remember. And my mom was a craft teacher in School. But also my Grandma had great influence on me with the crafting.


Mine-ICON How did you learn your craft?

handmadefuzzy-ICON I still have my little booklet we made in School in second Grade, each page had a different stitch, explained and shown an a little piece of cloth. So my first adventures into the craft area happened in School.


Sergeant Mayhem hand knitted mouse
Okay, this little guy caught my eye and made me laugh.  The other mice are adorable, but.. this guy gives me the giggles :D

Mine-ICON What about YOU? Who is the artist behind those wonderful items?

handmadefuzzy-ICON who is the person behind handmadefuzzy? wow that is not a easy question to answer. I mainly used my crafts as an outlet, sometimes to fight homesickness, sometimes to sooth me, sometimes just because I had an brilliant idea. I am a restless soul I always have to do something creative. Be it  rearranging furniture, painting some walls, building some outdoor things or knitting away on the sofa. I am a Mom to two very active and creative girls that always keep me on my toes. Always open to new adventures but also happy to enjoy a lazy afternoon on the couch with a good book or movie.

beige purple Newsboyscap two way
I don't know why, but I love newsboy caps, even though I can't wear them; they're so cute!

Mine-ICON What is a typical "working" day for you? How does it usually start and end? How many hours do you spend crafting? How many hours do you spend on other things? What about distractions? I know we all have them! Do you usually accomplish all you wanted to?

handmadefuzzy-ICON hm... daily routine? well first and foremost comes my family. So after they all left the house I do a little yoga, get my breakfast cereal ready and a cup of tea, then get my PC running so I can catch up on all the new stuff that had happened over night in the www. I start with my shop emails, than FB and Google+. After that it depends, lately I have a lot of Occupational Therapies I have to go to, so they kind of disrupt my "normal" routine. If I have some items ready I hope for good weather to take pictures and if I have enough muse try to list them. By the time the kids come back from school I dismiss the PC so they will have my full attention. Mostly when everyone is in bed I do my second big round through the net, get my blog up to date etc. My crafting usually happens in between all those times. Yes I do get distracted too and it sometimes irritates me when I can't do my crafts specially when I have something really fun going on. But life happens and that is totally ok!

Mine-ICON What happens when you Oops? Everyone gets one sometime or another! Do you get frustrated and destroy/start over, or do you go with the flow and see what comes out in the end?

handmadefuzzy-ICON Yes I have UFO (unfinished objects) laying around somewhere! I do get frustrated over some things, specially when it's a custom order and it doesn't want to work the way I had planned it. Then I just have to put it aside for a bit. It will hit me like a ton of bricks later, what I did wrong.  A lot of my projects though don't have a "real" in to detail plan, they happen. I let my material take the lead.

blond hand knitted guardian angel
Adorable little ornamental angel, perfect to hang anywhere you need a guardian to watch over you!

Mine-ICON What is your design process like? How many tries does it take to be happy with the final product?

handmadefuzzy-ICON I have a final picture in mind, but often it gets reworked, redesigned. My designing happens along the way. Sometimes I am happy with the first result, sometimes it takes quite a few tries.


not just a little sock on the chain
I know several people who could use one of these! I know that I always lose my lip balm in my purse when I need it most!

Mine-ICON What is your greatest roadblock, be it government regulation or that little frustrating thing that just likes to sneak up and stop you in your tracks? Broken needle? Jump ring jumping out of your pliers? Thread knots? Cats? Dogs? The family hedgehog rolled about in your yarn basket?

handmadefuzzy-ICON my greatest roadblock at the moment is a pronator tunnel syndrome. It is frustrating when you have an idea and you want to work on it but you can't because of pain. Other times it's not having certain material at home


Mine-ICON All important pricing... Do you have a formula? Do you wing it? Do you feel your work justifies your prices?

handmadefuzzy-ICON yikes, the pricing issue... well I mostly wing it, how much would I be willing to pay for it.  I do a search on other handmade sites to see the price ranges there.

rainbow bracelet macrame
This bracelet would go with anything! Simple, fun, and very bright!

Mine-ICON And of course, is there anything else you'd like to say to our "viewers at home"? 

handmadefuzzy-ICON I love buying handmade myself, like this I know what is in my product. If it is not listed I can always ask and pretty sure will get an answer. Also it is satisfying to know that I supported a human being and not a big company. Plus mostly you can be pretty sure about it that you get a one of a kind item, that no one else will have the exact same thing.

Absolutely phenominal stuff!  Such a wide selection; I couldn't even touch on some of the other wonderful things tucked away in your shop!  I have to say that I saw more variety there than I see in most shops from those who use yarns!  I also hear you, on a personal level, about wanting to work with pain.  One thing that stops me is carpel tunnel, though luckily mine is mild and as long as I don't irritate it, it stays away.  Working with your hands with any kind of condition that affects them is something frustrating for sure!  People laugh at ergonomic keyboards (Can't live without mine!), wrist braces and hand gloves for crafters, but they seldom realize that the love of the craft brings us through the pain, and looking at your shop truly shows your creative mind and talented hands!

Thank you for sharing your story, your work, and your awesome creativity!

Visit handmadefuzzy on Zibbet to see all of the wonderful things there – there is so much more that I didn't have room to show!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some changes!

As many of you may or may not have noticed, I've learned some new things about Blogger.

As you can see on the right, my own links have vanished, and replaced with all the wonderful shops belonging to the fantastic people I have featured here.  Missed their interview? No problem, their shop links are in reverse order, newest first.  The only difference there is with MOMeveryday and KIDeveryday who had a double feature, but don't worry, I've numbered their week so they'll be easy enough to find!

I've also included new Pages, tabbed at the top, with more information about me, how to contact me, and how I got started as a jewelry artist.

I have also found that my ISP offers a bit of webspace, so recently I've been hard at work reconnecting with my old foe "HTML" and learning, slowly and gradually about a new nemesis "CSS".  It's a trip, I tell you.

Back in the early 2000s, personal web pages were everywhere – Geocities, Yahoo, Homesite, Tripod, and many, many others.  These days, sadly, have fallen to the wayside, and it has become difficult to find anywhere that doesn't have more ads than page content.  For someone who wants a site to showcase their work, and has little money (domain hosting can cost up to $30 a year, though most places do have it for around $10 per year or so, and finding a web-host that will allow you to upload your own created pages is becoming few and far-between), it can be difficult to find an option that is a good one.

Some ISPs do offer web-space – usually between 10 and 30 megabytes (MB) of space.  This may not seem like much, but as one of those people who, back in 2000, hosted not one, but four "personal" and "fan" websites, I can say that the limit I had from my old ISP, 20MB, hosted all four, with images and even a little music in MIDI format, which I wrote and sequenced myself.  I even stored some karaoke tracks of me to share with friends in MP3 format, and still had space left over!  I hand-coded all the HTML in notepad, and even back then I saw code in my sleep.

Now that I am learning CSS, it's happening all over again.  I see code when I close my eyes.  I see code when I'm working with wire (for you jewelry artists out there, ever shape a bit of wire into a shape like this: { or } ? This bracket is used in CSS coding), I see it when I sleep, and I see it when I'm not even thinking about code.

My site is still in its infant stages, even though I coded some basic content for GooglePages back when it allowed you to upload your own HTML, and not only use their "page builder".  CSS coding has made my pages more uniform, cleaner, and even though tweaking it every five minutes to include something I didn't think of five minutes before, I'm hoping that the overall effect will be an easy to navigate, clean way to show off some of my more fun things, as well as a color chart of all the colors of crystal I use, the shapes of the crystal, and other things.

This has led to extensive photography.  Did I mention photography? And more photography.  Getting that ONE clear, clean shot of a crystal is not as easy as it sounds, and even when I look at some of the ones I selected out of the hundreds I've taken, they're not QUITE clear enough for me.  This leads to more photography. (Have I mentioned photography?)

The end result I think will be a good one.  I hope.  My ISP doesn't support PHP or ASPX, Java or Flash, but it does allow CSS, thank goodness.  I do have a placeholder up, but won't post the link to the site until I have at least half of the pages ready and uploaded. Phew.

For now, I leave you to explore, if you have not already done so, the new tabs at the top of this page, the new link section, and of course I leave you with the promise that soon, I will even have a shiny website for you to explore.

Until next week's interview, thanks for reading!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview Series: Week 12 – RainboWire Jewelry

Hello everyone!  Today we're back to an interview, instead of my crazy rambling.  At the time I'm writing this entry, this interview is the last I have. :(  There has been some renewed interest in the forums I've posted in, however, and I am hoping this means that I will have another interview to put up two weeks from now!  If not, I can just ramble and post random people up until I have responses!

Today I bring you Diane of RainboWire on Zibbet.  Her motto of "Colorful, Creative, Fun" certainly holds true to her work.  But I'll let her, and her images, tell her story.

Name:  Diane Schoenstein
Craft: RainboWire Jewelry
Favorite Material:  Colored Copper Wire
Most Popular Seller:  New Zealand Paua Shell Earrings

Rose Quartz Wild Sticks NL Set
This set reminds me of sunny tribal dreams. Stunning work.


Mine-ICON What got you into your craft?


RainboWire-ICON My intention was to pursue “papermaking” as an art form.  In the process, I was encouraged to try something else.  I started with one book on wire jewelry, ordered a handful of tools, some colored copper wire, and a small amount of beautiful gemstone beads.  In short time, I found out I really not only enjoyed creating the jewelry outlined in the book but also handling and working with gorgeous gemstones.  I became hooked as I ordered more beads and tried more jewelry ideas ---page after page!

Mine-ICON How did you learn your craft?


RainboWire-ICON I had never taken a formal jewelry class in college, but years later I tried a few non-credit classes using copper sheeting, soldering, and enameling.  I didn’t take that route though.  Instead, I taught myself the basic wire jewelry steps through a multitude of jewelry ideas outlined in wire jewelry books.  I progressed into different gauges and colors of colored copper wire using only hand tools.  I knew in time I would develop my own “style” of work.  In the meantime though, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire tactile and learning  process including the wonderful world of gemstones and oceans of beads.  After doing some craft shows, I happily found that my work sold and was enjoyed by others.  Therefore, I became a business the following year in 2004!



Handmade Hammered Copper Teardrop Earrings w Amethyst Wirewrap & Metallic Bead 
Simple, but very elegant, incorporating lots of complimenting and contrasting color!


Mine-ICON What about YOU? Who is the artist behind those wonderful items?

RainboWire-ICON I knew as a child that I wanted to become an artist.  I loved to paint, color, do crafts, sew, crochet, bake-- so many artsy things.  After taking only one art class in college, I knew what I wanted to major in and pursue!  I eventually took a papermaking class which turned out to be the medium I loved most of all!  Years later when I finally had a chance to make my dream come true—what did I do??  I got sidetracked to try wire jewelry making.  As it turned out, I loved to create in 3 dimensions—something tactile—something with “line, color, shape, texture, form”.  Papermaking could also easily fit into that category---but that would have to be in another lifetime.  I’m too involved with my wire jewelry right now!

Handmade Crochet Wire Necklace Set w Assorted Green Glass Beads
Unbelievably intricate, indisputably dazzling!

Mine-ICON What is a typical "working" day for you? How does it usually start and end? How many hours do you spend crafting? How many hours do you spend on other things? What about distractions? I know we all have them! Do you usually accomplish all you wanted to?

RainboWire-ICON After breakfast, sometimes I draw a new idea originating from a daydream…believe it or not!  I check e-mails and do some social networking.  Then I head for my studio to tackle paperwork ?, work on new earring designs?, decide on color combos for pins, or complete some piece started the night before.  It’s usually fun stuff—that’s why I do what I do! 
I enjoy a daily walk—to get away from it all, and after dinner, I head back to the studio on work for my craft shows, gallery, or online items.  After supper, I social network, marketing research, or read about business topics in magazines or books.  Presently, I am broadening my horizons with local business classes.  I guess the only thing I’m not crazy about is the paperwork—probably like most artists!!  Definitely not my “forte”!  I can spend 7-9 hours a day on work.  Distractions include: housework, phone calls, e-mails, and home paperwork.  I have been trying earnestly, to get a schedule down, but it’s hard when you work at home.  I do try to stay on my designated business path and, from time to time, fight the urge to be distracted.

Mine-ICON What happens when you Oops? Everyone gets one sometime or another! Do you get frustrated and destroy/start over, or do you go with the flow and see what comes out in the end?

RainboWire-ICON Occasionally, I will try out a new design when it just doesn’t work out.  Yes, it’s frustrating—especially when a good deal of time was spent on it.  If there is no hope for it, I abandon it.  There are times, however, when I see how I can overcome the challenge, and I go from there.


Handmade "Bead Dancer" Pin w Bronze-Colored Bead
I love the Bead Dancers.  So adorable, and very eye-catching pieces!

Mine-ICON What is your design process like? How many tries does it take to be happy with the final product?

RainboWire-ICON My ideas come from daydreams and anything that I see that makes me take a “second” look.  It could be the line, shape or color combo in a person’s jacket.  It could be a “part” of an image I see in a magazine.  I’ll sketch or take notes and put it in my notebook.  When I try something new, it may just work out: the color scheme, technique, and the time spent.  Luckily, I have a number of previously developed techniques that I can just “tweak” for a one-of-a-kind piece!  With those endeavors, I change the color or gauge of wire, color/type/amount of beads to get a new look.   There’s nothing like a wonderful outcome—as all well know!


Handmade Sterling Silver Tortoise Charm Earrings w Green Wirewrap
Adorable little things aren't they? For every turtle/tortoise lover, or any nature lover!

Mine-ICON What is your greatest roadblock, be it government regulation or that little frustrating thing that just likes to sneak up and stop you in your tracks? Broken needle? Jump ring jumping out of your pliers? Thread knots? Cats? Dogs? The family hedgehog rolled about in your yarn basket?

RainboWire-ICON I have to admit, it is frustrating, at times, to have to stop for my daily walk…especially when I am in the middle of something.  Other than that, I might not have “enough” of a certain bead, wire gauge, or ----worse--- a particular wire gauge color!  I may be in the middle of drilling shells and discover I don’t have another drill bit in the size I need.  Other times, I may have a new craft show in mind and find out after talking with the promoter, that they accept “commercial” items.  Oh well, I do my best to only enter shows that deal with hand-crafted work….and only shows that are “art/craft” events…not car shows, or wine festivals with emphasis on something other than arts or crafts.  I suppose my “roadblocks” are classified as normal ones.

Mine-ICON All important pricing... Do you have a formula? Do you wing it? Do you feel your work justifies your prices?

RainboWire-ICON Since I am a business, I can’t “wing it” when it comes to pricing.  I read a lot about pricing when I started, and in time considered four categories: salary, overhead, profit, and raw materials to base my selling price on.  I have my salary (my price/hr), the overhead (all that is necessary to create my jewelry: electricity/internet/fees/office materials/etc.), a set profit percentage, and the raw materials used in every item I create.  I use Excel software on my computer with a created formula to include the “four categories”, and it is a real life-saver!  Everyone has to decide how to do this on their own with the help of some research.  Good luck!  
    --And yes, I feel my work does justify my prices.  It is a balance between a fair price, cost-effectiveness, and what I think I am worth as an artist.


Handmade Mica Quartz Necklace Set
Very earthy, and a perfect compliment to nearly any outfit!

Mine-ICON And of course, is there anything else you'd like to say to our "viewers at home"?

RainboWire-ICON If you are thinking about pursuing an endeavor in jewelry making because you think there is easy money in it, please note that you will be entering a field that envelops the most popular medium.  This translates into “major competition” for the artist which disperses jewelry customers.   You have to develop your own “niche” to survive.  If it is---your passion---then, by all means….go for it!  This can result in a very satisfying creative outlet.  Creating wire jewelry has its challenges but also---its rewards!

I certainly would feel rewarded after making such wonderful work! I don't think I've personally ever seen work like this done with so many colors and such a range of materials all worked around and with colored copper wire!  Thank you Diane, for sharing your story, and your work!

You can visit Diane at RainboWire Jewelry on Zibbet to see more of her stunning work.

Until next Wednesday, thank you all for reading!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some Pointless Rambling about Advertising, Pricing and Buyer Mentality

Okay, okay, it's not so pointless. I'm just trying to draw out and prolong the Interview Series by posting this before the very last one I have, in the hopes that some of the responses I'm waiting on will come in.

So in the meantime, I'd actually like to talk about two very touchy subjects for any hand-crafter:
Pricing and Advertising.
And also:
Buyer Mentality

I had a whole post about Pricing near the end of last year.  Though I'm not sure anyone can really say enough about it.  I've not yet touched on Advertising, though.  Buyer Mentality, I went over a little bit last year also, during the holiday shopping season, but what about normally? What about the times where it's not a holiday shopping season, and it's not the season of "rushrushrush" and "buybuybuy"?

Let me begin with Advertising.  Let's face it.  It's really not easy to get your name and product out there.  Even if you open an online shop, or have a website, you're not going to be able to see a million sales within that first week. Especially if you are in certain areas, like Jewelry, Knitting, Crocheting, or Cards.  These areas especially have many, MANY people who make MANY magnificent things, and it's hard sometimes to sort through all of the sellers to find that ONE thing you're looking for, whether it be for yourself or for someone else.  But let's say YOU have that special something. How will a buyer KNOW? How will they even have the idea that you even exist?

Sure there are link exchanges, social media, paid advertising options… But what if you really don't have an advertising budget?
I will admit, I do not.  I'm saving up, but right now, I just can't afford a premium slot of advertising space, and I can't afford to pay for premium membership in any of the places I sell to be heralded on the front page of the site every day, every week, every month.  My shops are buried on their respective sites, and it's hard to post something new every day when I don't MAKE something new EVERY day.  And I know I'm not alone.  Many shops who are just starting out won't have that budget, and they won't have a stock of items to just post, post, post, either.  So what's the secret to getting your shop found?

If you find out, please tell me! I need more sales!

… Ahem.

There are actually several things that I've found out that have at least opened eyes, even if it really hasn't brought about sales yet.
It might seem obvious, but Social Media.  Are you on Facebook? Is your shop? 
What about Twitter? Pinterest? 

It's amazing how people can overlook some of these tools.  On Facebook, having a fan page is actually a very good way to start, especially if you have a non-existant budget.  Your friends will probably mumble a little when you send each and every one of them a message saying "Go Like My Page!", but really, most of them will do so, even if they have no idea what it is, and don't care what it is, only doing so because you are their friend.  That is then listed on their page.  Someone they are friends with that you are not will see it, and if it's clear what you make, or if your name is intriguing enough, chances are they'll click on it in curiosity.  They may look and say "Meh, no." or "Oooh."  That may generate another Like, which in turn will be posted on their wall, where friends they have that you don't know will see it. And the chain reaction has begun.  This was how Dream Weaver Jewelry (and more!) got its first 100 Likes, in fact.  I was shocked, in shock, and wasn't sure I was really awake.  After burning my tongue on some molten cheese in the pasta I forgot in my shock was FRESH out of the oven, I was sure I was, though. By the way, I don't suggest that method of waking up or realizing that yes, it did happen.

After a time, I found a nifty little Facebook/Twitter app that posts everything I put on my Page's Facebook Wall to my Twitter – not my personal one, one I had set up just for Dream Weaver Jewelry (and more!).  It did take a few tests, and sometimes it doesn't post certain things (if you post a question, for instance), that I have to put up manually, but for the most part, that became almost completely hands- and worry-free.  My Twitter updated when my Facebook did, and I didn't have to constantly go to both to make sure both sets of Followers were updated on what I'm up to, the pictures I post, etc.

I found Pinterest by accident.  I'm not as good at keeping up with it yet, but I'm getting better.  Pinterest is a great way to share things you find, though many may not like it because it discourages SELF-promotion.  But I will admit, I've found some amazing things pinned there, and I myself have pinned things I find amazing, and have been surprised to find they have been liked, and some even repinned by others.

To be perfectly honest, I find advertising to be a balancing game.  Yes, I want my name and my shop out there for all to see, but I also look at some other shops or items and wonder "Why hasn't someone snapped that up yet?" or "Why hasn't this shop seen more sales? Their stuff is stunning!"  This is where my gallery that comes at the end of my more serious posts comes from.  If that item is buried, no one will ever see that it may be that SOMETHING they absolutely have to have, or that they've been looking for as a gift to that SOMEONE.  I know I don't have a huge following here, but I like to think that maybe, just maybe, enough people read my blog to see it, spread the word, or even be the one who's been looking for that item.  It's also one of the reasons I've been sharing the stories and items of the people in my Minnerviews. We're all in this together, and I see no reason to try to bury my competition, unless of course they ripped off one of my designs or blatantly copied my work to sell – which thankfully I've not seen yet.  Everything I see is so unique, and deserves to be seen. 

Self-promotion is only part of it.  Sometimes one gets more attention for their conduct, more so than their product.  This ties in also with how a potential customer may view potential customer service.  I'm sad to say I've dealt with some really rotten sellers, lovely product, but absolutely rude, obnoxious, and so full of themselves that they look down their nose at someone "daring" to ask a question about the product that they "slaved" over, and I was actually told once: "If you're not going to buy it, I'm not going to bother with your questions."  Needless to say, I wrote back "Well, I was asking questions to make sure that this was the one I wanted to buy, since it's exactly what I'm looking for, and I just want more information on its materials and making, but if you're going to treat a potential customer like THAT, I'm not buying from you."  That product stayed right where it was, and I went elsewhere. 

You don't treat people that way.  You just don't.  I don't care who you are – your product is NOT the only one, THE BEST there is, and I do not HAVE to buy from you if you are rude to me, treat me like I should bow down to you and your product, and you refuse to answer questions, or treat customers – potential as well as actual – with respect, or thank them for even looking at your shop, whether they buy or not.

Advertising is not only about putting your product out there.  It's also about YOU.  Your work will share a lot of your personality, whether you realize it or not.  When you advertise, you should not only be advertising your product, but yourself as well.  Customers want to see a sense of customer service, quality, a willingness to work with, or possibly customize items, friendliness, patience, and kindness as well as good workmanship or craftsmanship.

This is a good lead in to remind you all of Pricing.

All of those traits will also make whatever price you set seem worth it.  I know so many that struggle still with pricing their work, since it is hard to balance what people will actually pay, and how not to cheat yourself.

I've seen work similar to some of what I do, done in plastic, glass, or cheap junk sell for higher prices than what I charge… and I don't understand it, and I do wish someone would explain that to me.  Why is it that people don't mind shelling out $25 for a shoddily made necklace with cheap-metal chain, glass or plastic beads, but a lovely design, but will look at sterling silver, semi-precious or precious stones, Swarovski crystal, fine craftsmanship in a design just as lovely, for the same $25, and sneer and ask "You want me to pay THAT price for THAT piece of junk?"

This ties into Buyer Mentality.

For some strange reason, the above scenario is actually all too common, even though the common buyer doesn't realize it.
Go to your local Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever Major Store you have.  Go to the "Fashion Jewelry" section.  Look around.  Look at the prices.  Then examine the work.
Most people don't know the differences, or what to look for.  I can tell you, though, from the perspective of KNOWING jewelry rather intimately, that if you are looking at something that says "GENUINE GOLD" or "GENUINE STERLING SILVER" – it's not.  You want the real thing? You better be looking in the glass cases at the higher priced stuff.  That's the only place where there will be Genuine ANYTHING.

If it's out on a display table, or on a wall, it's not going to be real, no matter how many times it screams "GENUINE!!!!" on the packaging.  It might be plated.  But when that plating wears off, you're likely to find a cheap metal that will burn your skin, set off an allergy, or just look like crap.  Trust me. It doesn't take long for it to wear off – I used to buy that stuff, and if I wore it for a week, it would be completely crap by the end of it.

One MAJOR thing to look at/look for is the way the LOOPS are made.  I took a moment to make two eye loops with some scrap silver plated wire I had left over from a project so I could provide examples.

Bad Eye PinDoes it look like this?
Stay away from it.  This indicates fast, or just plain shoddy work.  The eye-loop is improperly formed, not properly closed, and if it was done with a machine, it was not properly checked for quality before it left.  If it was made by hand, it was probably made quickly to produce quantity on time, and not much attention was paid to the quality of the work.
This eye loop will very easily catch in hair, on clothing, or other things that when pulled, will pull the piece apart, destroying the item entirely.

If the item is indeed hand-made, it also will indicate amateur work. Check back with the seller after a while – I will admit that this is indeed what my eye-loops once looked like, and it did take me time to learn to make them better.

Good Eye PinDoes it look like this?
You can trust it.  This indicates care and time was taken, or was made by someone who is experienced with making loops, or if it was made by machine, the item was properly checked for quality.  If it was made by hand, the person who made it took their time for quality, not necessarily quantity, or made by someone who is experienced enough to make quality loops quickly. The eye-loop is properly closed, and will not easily catch in hair or clothing, or other things, so it is far more difficult to be pulled apart, destroying the item.

If the item is hand-made, this indicates good to masterful work, or that time was taken to check it, correct it, or remake it for quality.  Check the seller's other work, and of course check the dates – earlier work may look like the one above. If it does, you know then that the person who made the work has improved rapidly, or has learned new or better technique.  This is a good quality in jewelry makers.

The loops are usually one very quick indicator of whether or not the item is worth it.  Another thing to look for is for how much something screams "GENUINE".  For example, take the ring that my sister dropped in her Lasagna, then found later by biting down on it (and cursing a lot).  Knowing I have some jewelry knowledge, she gave me the bent bit of "GENUINE" silver, and asked me to straighten it back out into a ring.  Well, I did so.  Then I saw the marks from where she bit it, winced, and whipped out the needle files and fine grit sanding pad and the polishing leather pad.

I hope she doesn't kill me.  Some of that "GENUINE" silver, is actually…. Copper.

Don't mind my hands, sanding dust from metal tends to turn them black, and my hands, my nails themselves are a little work-weathered.

Linda's Ring Top This is the top of my sister's ring.  You can see the tooth-marks pretty clearly.  I did file this a little, until I saw the slight hint of the copper along the very top of the left-hand heart.  I stopped filing.  This was the first clue.  I thought to myself, okay, perhaps it's a trick of the light. Let me try somewhere else to test this.

Linda's Ring Side This one shows the side, which is a little blurry in this shot, for which I apologize – which was still too obvious.

So I didn't even touch this spot.

Linda's Ring Bottom And the bottom of the ring, which I filed, sanded and then polished.

And it's VERY obvious. Copper.

This was one of those "GENUINE!!!!!!" Silver rings.

… doesn't look genuine to me.  This one, however, is a bit better than most – it looks like actual copper under that silvery sheen, and not some other metal.

GENUINE!Love This one is one of my mother's.  She asked me to clean it.  I cleaned it and buffed it for her.

This also, was a GENUINE!!!!!!! Silver ring.

Not So GENUINE!Love A look at the inside tells the truth, however. Blackened, greenish, even after a dip in silver jewelry cleaner, a light brushing and a light buffing.

Not so GENUINE!!!!!!! after all.

Actually GenuineTHIS ring, however, is also my mother's, and she asked me to clean it.  I sent it through my silver jewelry cleaner.

It did not need buffing.

This is actually silver, ladies and gentlemen.

Triple Comparison Let's have a look at all three rings.

The one on the top is the real one.  Notice it's not ULTRA bright, but has a lovely sheen.

The middle one is my sister's "GENUINE!!!!!!" Silver ring – but only a plating or coating… and it's unknown what it's actually plated with.  In my opinion, it looks more like that ULTRA shiny chrome you see on cars – since it is ULTRA bright.

The last one also claimed "GENUINE!!!!!!!!" Silver! But you can see the lackluster shine, and you saw the inside above.  This is probably Alpaca Silver – which I warned about in an earlier blog post.  This ring would very likely give anyone with a nickel allergy a very nasty reaction.

The top ring would probably have been priced around $30-35 in today's standards.  This ring is older, and was probably purchased for less at that time (around 20 or more years ago).
The middle ring was probably one of those $5-15 things you see on prominent displays at larger stores.
The bottom ring was likely from one of those little Mall Kiosks.  Cute things, yes, but very rarely real.  Also probably around $5-15.
Yes, the middle and bottom rings will look okay or great for a while, but time wears out that shiny silvery coating, as is seen on the inside of the second ring.  For those without metal allergies, all it will do will pit, feel uncomfortable and turn your finger funky colors (usually green or black).  For those with metal allergies, this can cause severe reactions.

But notice how much more expensive the real ring is.  Also notice that I said it was purchased around 20 years ago. The other two were more recent, but considering how one is apparently copper (and the plating or coating is very thin), and the bottom one was never silver to begin with, they may look lovely for a time, but then their luster will fade, and they will look more like the junk they are.  That bottom ring already looks more like junk, even though it is still serviceable as a"silver colored" ring.
The bottom two are most likely to be purchased – they are inexpensive and look nice.  But as I just said, they will only look nice for a little while.  The top ring, which is less likely to be purchased unless someone is looking specifically for quality, and is buying from those glass cases, or from an actual jewelry shop, will last much longer.

The problem most hand-crafters have is this:
Buyers want inexpensive, and most do not realize that inexpensive doesn't mean quality.

Crafters make quality, and expect to price for materials, quality AND their time to make sure what they have produced IS quality.
Hand-crafted items will usually be more expensive, which is why my pet peeve ALWAYS comes into play: "I can get that so much cheaper at (Big Store/Name Store at the mall/Kiosk at the mall), so why should I pay that exorbitant price for your cheap handmade crap?"

Unless, of course, the buyer is educated on hand-crafted items, the work that goes into them, and the time taken to ensure that what the hand-crafter offers for sale is quality, and very often one-of-a-kind.

That is why I write these. I try to make it clear that since so much is made in other countries, most notably China (which, if you read up on, is often cited for poor working conditions, poor quality, lead use, and other such things), that because it's cheaper, it's not always going to be what you expect.  Granted, some things made in other countries ARE high quality, and beautifully made – usually ethnic items native to that culture are going to be the best.

Most things made in another country are made there for some other country which outsources their labor to keep their overhead costs low, and offer lower prices so more things are purchased.  This does not necessarily mean that outsource is going to provide the highest quality – just less expensive, mass produced items.  There are always exceptions, of course, but normally, it won't be.

Hand-crafters do not do this.  They make their items with their own two hands.  They may have things they can "mass produce", or keep in stock.  I know I do, but I make those when I don't have other projects, or when I need something to do to keep my hands busy, or when I'm preparing for a live venue.  Not all hand-crafters do this, or even have that ability, depending on their craft.

Back to Pricing for a moment.
Hand-crafters almost always short themselves in order to sell their products, because of the mentality that it has to be inexpensive to actually move from their shops.  I have done so, admittedly, but I don't agree with it.  It's not fair to the person who made the item at all.  They took the time to make the item, check it for quality, and then offered it for sale.

A person expects proper compensation for what they do. So let me ask this:
Why is a hand-crafter's time not worth this?  What is it that makes people think that someone who sells hand-crafted items they made with their own two hands should not be properly compensated for their time?  Other professions do, why should they not be? 

A hand-crafter not only makes their items, but photographs them (photographers make around $25-30 an hour), markets them (marketing assistants make around $20 an hour), does their invoicing and other paperwork, including filing (clerical jobs can be anywhere from $8-25 an hour, depending on the work and company they work for), their shipping (mailroom clerks make around $15 per hour), and often spend the time to drive to and from the post office or shipping place of their choice (current 2012 per-mile reimbursement rate is $0.51 per mile). 

Using these averages (which I calculated from US National Average Salaries from basic job titles found on, and after some more research that says most people charge anywhere between $10-30 per hour for actual crafting time (found on various question/answer websites by using Google to ask the question "How much should I charge per hour to make jewelry?"), let's see just how much crafters really "should" be charging.

I'll use one of my own items as an example.
Let's see.  One of my more recent items… Ah. One of my earwrap/earcuff sets.
Hrm.. the Fire one.
It took me around 12 hours to design and finalize the earwrap, about 5 hours for the cuff. Using the average of $20 for labor… $340 for just the labor there.
Materials.  The materials cost was around $30, if you count raw materials, and trial-and-error failures in the design process… $30 for materials.
I spent at least 4 hours setting up and photographing both of them, and then sorting through and picking the best ones and adjusting for crop and lighting… about $100 for the photography.
I used a model.  I should have paid her for her time, even if it was my sister. Some of these at entry-level charge up to $50 or more per hour… I should have paid her $200 for her time.. so I have to charge $200 for the modeling work done to photograph my product for sale.
I had to post them, which is marketing work, that took me about an hour all told, to put it up on Facebook, check that it posted to Twitter, posted it on my deviantArt gallery, and put it up on my shops, so $20 there.
If one sells, I have to do the paperwork.  Another hour spent doing that. $10 there, if I use the lower entry-level average.
Shipping.  I have to package the item for shipping, put everything into the mailing item (padded envelope, bubble envelop, box, etc.), which I also had to purchase, and then drive into town (I live in a rural area), to take it to the post office and make sure it has delivery confirmation… So let's see, time to package, around half an hour, so $7.50 there, driving the 17 miles to AND back from town, that's around $9 for the mileage, and I spent about an hour to drive and wait at the post office.. so another $15 right there.
Now that set is on its way to its new owner.
If I add all that up…. That earwrap/earcuff set should be minimum cost $731.50.  Oh, right, retail markup! How could I forget that?  So a 25% markup…
My Fire Elemental Earwrap/Earcuff set should retail at $915!  That's not much, is it? 
Funny, I only charge $60 for the set, and $5 for shipping within the US, $10 outside it.  I'm shorting myself $850!! Oh, wait no.  $650. I forgot I had to pay my model for her time, which was calculated at $200. Oh! And Etsy charges $0.20 for every listing, so every time I've listed or relisted it, that has to be calculated and added, and then they take 3% of the sale, so I have to add that if it sells on Etsy, and if it sells on MadeItMyself, they charge 3.5% of each sale, so I'd have to calculate that, and if I get a Premium Zibbet account I'd have to account for that too.  All of those factors would adjust the price on each site, which would cause me to do some basic accounting work…

As I said before – crafters short themselves for their work, and many buyers tell them they charge too much.
It's hard enough to advertise, create and price your work, but then, if you look at that one example, you see what hand-crafters go through to please the buyer mentality that it should be much cheaper than it is just because it's hand-crafted.  Granted, not everyone thinks that way, but far, far too many do.

I leave you by repeating my questions from above:
Why is a hand-crafter's time not worth this? 
What is it that makes people think that someone who sells hand-crafted items they made with their own two hands should not be properly compensated for their time? 
Other professions do, why should they not be?

Do you know someone who has that buyer mentality?  Point them this way! Educate them.
I should make a new slogan: Stop the Abuse of Hand-Crafters!  No, perhaps not.  That would require yet more paperwork…

Until next week's interview!  Thank you, everyone, for reading!