Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Handmade: “When I Was Your Age”

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

I’m a kid of the 1980’s. We all knew what brand of underwear “Marty McFly” wore. You were no one if you didn’t own that brand of jeans, this pair of sneakers, and a particular watch. Moms fought in department stores over a large headed doll that you could adopt from a garden. Everything was about brands and labels. If you were not succumbing to the commercialism, there was something inherently wrong with you. It was the time.

Old Guess Ad by David Weekly

I didn’t own any of those labels. I’d say the only part I cared about, was whether Marty made it back to 1985. My mother made a majority of my clothes, not because money was tight, but because she liked to do it. I had beautiful clothes with no labels. She made me dolls that looked like the ones which were popular. They played no differently that “real” ones, and I appreciated the effort she put into them. I had Barbie dolls, and my mother made their clothes, until I was old enough to make them myself. For the most part, I liked having what she made me, despite the rest of the world screaming that handmade bad. I do recall being a bit concerned when she announced she was going to make me a bathing suit. Somehow, I pictured a 1920’s bathing suit sagging everywhere, but instead I had the best fitting suit of my life. I apologized for my lack of faith.

Today, times have changed. We are returning to a respect for handmade items. Crafts and skills that were at risk of dying out are being revived. People are making homemade soap. Old sewing machines are being dug out of attics, dust swept off, and people are learning to sew again. There is more disdain for commercial store bought products today, as we look more towards quality than quantity.

There is something inherently special about having the opportunity to speak with the person who made the item you’ve purchased. There is an element of honesty about it too. They have put their name on it, and they are personally confirming their product is of high quality. Labels still exist, and there are still plenty of people who succumb to their power, but the shift back to appreciating handmade items is a breath of fresh air.

Boston Handmade Marketplace 2013 by Jessica Burko

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Breaking Into Wholesale, part two

Now that you’ve got your materials prepared, it’s time to approach stores. There are two primary ways to do this.

The first is to exhibit at a tradeshow. There are shows that cover the gift market in general like NY Now or the Buyer’s Market of American Craft. And there are more industry-specific shows like The National Needle Arts Association Trade Show and the National Stationery Show. The benefit is that you’ll have days of exposure to store owners across the country. And what’s better is that they’re in the right frame of mind–they’re coming to the show because they want to buy. The downside is that these shows can be a huge commitment in terms of both time and money. So it’s not really ideal if you just want to test the waters.

If this is something you’re seriously considering, I would recommend walking the show before applying to exhibit. While most shows are closed to the public, you can email the sales office to request a guest badge. Any reputable show will understand that you want to check it out to make sure
it’s a good fit.

The more manageable way to break into wholesale is to reach out to stores one at a time. Do some research in your local area or online to find shops that would be a good fit. Ask yourself, does the store’s aesthetic suit my line’s aesthetic? Is my price point a good match? Are they already carrying items that are very similar to mine? Your best bet is to find a store whose products complement what you offer but don’t overlap. For example, a store that offers fresh, fun home d├ęcor items like throw pillows, rugs, picture frames, and candles would be a good fit for someone who makes lampshades.

I strongly advise contacting stores via email. Do not pop by and put them on the spot. Store owners are very busy people and if they’re not helping a customer than they’re writing purchase orders, receiving new inventory, arranging displays, or doing 1000 other tasks. They may be polite to
walk-ins but it’s not the way to put your best foot forward.

Your email should include a great product shot, a short introduction to your company or product line, and a way they can contact you for more information. Make sure to let them know that you have a line sheet available if they want one. It also helps to mention something specific about their store (for example, a line that they already carry that would merchandise well with yours) so they know you are writing just to them and not sending out a form letter.

The majority of the time, you will not receive a response and there are several reasons for this. The obvious one is that the owner feels your line is not a good fit for the store. But the other possibilities are:
• They were overwhelmed with emails at that time and never read yours.
• They are interested and meant to write back but got too busy.
• It’s the wrong time of year. (Don’t pitch Christmas products in October, stores have already done their holiday buying for the season.)
• They don’t have any open to buy at the moment (meaning they’re already spend their budget buying other things).
• They have too much existing inventory in your product category and need to work through it before taking on new brands.

I write these things, not to discourage you, but to give some insight into the shop owner’s perspective. The bottom line is that you should not give up. Keep writing to stores on a quarterly basis but be sure to highlight the new items in your line. Stores are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest and there’s no reason why that can’t be you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Metalsmith Mind: How to Burnish or Flush Set Stones

I was asked by a number of people to try to create a tutorial on how I set stones into my jewelry. I took my very "low tech" (or so I thought!) Power Shot camera and created this video... I did it in one take:

The response has been incredible. Whether you know how to make jewelry or not, I think you will enjoy this little movie and learn a little bit about my process! I take great care in making jewelry that is interesting, unique, and ALWAYS handmade. So grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show!
Want to make your own How To video? It's easy and so fun to do! All I did was put my camera on a tripod, I set it up, zoomed in on my hands and bench, and pressed play! If your camera has the movie icon, you can make your own how to video.

Here is the finished product! Like what you see? You can find my designs online at Cristina Hurley Jewelry or in person at:
554 Washington Street
Canton, MA 02021
Thanks for watching!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Mosaic: An artful home

curated by Sharon Fischer, Stray Notions

1. Coaster Set- Fenway Park, Lucie Wicker Photography
2. Handwoven Table Runner, Loomination
3. Pillow Cover - Seasonal Tree - Wool Applique, Stray Notions
4. Austrian Vintage Set of 3 Doilies Hand Dyed Mushroom Colored, Enchanted Hue

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why Handmade: Our Hands

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

My left hand hurts when I use my thumb. I mean excruciating pain that doesn’t go away after taking over-the-counter pain medicine. It only started yesterday, and it is most likely the result of sleeping the wrong way; however, I’m left handed. It has me thinking, how can something be handmade, if I can’t use my hands?

I have a room filled with a variety of different tools, mostly for the purpose of making jewelry. There are also tools for woodworking. I have my painting supplies. I have my sewing machine. None of them are of any use to me without my most important tool – my hands. I desperately want to work on my craft. I have many ideas to share with the world, but it occurs to me, I may be better off simply resting my hand and allowing it to recover from what ever has caused it’s malady. Easier said than done, I suppose.

Hand of an Artist by Stephen A. Wolfe 

Hands create magic. They can tell stories through weaving, or drawing a picture. People often speak with their hands. Those digits hanging off our arms are exceptionally powerful in what they do for us every day. They say our thumbs in particular make us different from any other species. Artists rely on their hands even more so than most.
I am fascinated watching a person’s hands as they do their craft. I remember watching my nana knit. Her hands moved swiftly, as the yarn slipped through the clicking needles. I think of a seamstress, directing fabric under her sewing machine needle. There is something sensuous about watching a ceramic artist sliding their hands over soft wet clay on a potter’s wheel.

 Painter's Hands by Walt Stoneburner

I hope the discomfort in my hand is short-lived!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Breaking Into Wholesale, part one

Now that the New Year is upon us, it’s a great time to think about where you’d like to take your business in the next 12 months. Wholesaling can be a great revenue stream but it can also be overwhelming at first. What do I need to do before approaching stores? What’s the best way to approach stores? Are there any standard terms or practices I should know? This topic is a two-part series. Part One focuses on what you need to do to prepare for wholesaling. And Part Two will focus on how to seek out those opportunities.

To start, you need three essential items before approaching stores:
• wholesale pricing
• terms & conditions
• line sheet

Let’s break them down...

Wholesale Pricing:
There is a difference between your retail price (what you charge online and at shows) and your wholesale price (what you charge stores.) Typically your wholesale price is 50% of your retail price. This is called keystone pricing. However, if the market will bear it, you can set your retail price at 2.2 or 2.4 x your wholesale price.

Think you can’t afford to sell your product for half of the retail price? Perhaps there is a way you can streamline production or buy supplies in bulk to save on expenses. Or it may be time to raise your retail price. Many crafters undervalue their work; especially the amount of time they spend creating their work. Don’t forget to pay yourself an hourly rate in addition to what you take in as profit.

One thing to note is that you should never set your retail price online or at shows for less than what you recommend to stores. They will not appreciate it if their customer can check out your product in their shop and then buy it on your website for less. This is called showrooming.

Terms & Conditions:
The next step is to figure out your terms & conditions. Let’s start with your minimum order. When determining your minimum, decide how many items you want the shop to carry so that your work will have a good presence in the store. With my line, I like a store to have at least five different prints and two of each of those designs. So I multiply my wholesale print price by 10 and come up with my minimum opening order.

If you’re a jewelry designer you don’t want them to order just two necklaces; that makes it harder for your brand stand out amongst their other items. Ideally they would carry at least one full collection (earrings, bracelets, necklaces) or a range of several pieces so your work can be grouped together and make a nice presentation. Consider offering a free display if they order certain amount of product. The extra expense of the display is worth it because it gives you some say in how your product is merchandised.

Other things to think about are: How should the store order—via phone or email? How should they pay—credit card, check, or net 30 terms? Net 30 means that the store has 30 days to pay for their order and they do so by check. Most people offer net 30 to stores they regularly work with since they won’t have to pay the merchant fee on a credit card payment. But I would be careful about offering net 30 to a new account. They should place at least one order to earn your trust.

How long will your items take to ship once an order is placed? What’s your return policy? What should a retailer do if their order is incorrect or arrives damaged? How will you bill them for shipping? Will you offer any kind of exclusivity? One of the most popular forms is zip code exclusivity. This means that you promise not to sell the same exact item to two stores in the same zip code. You can, of course, sell different items to both stores.

You have a lot of leeway when it comes to setting your terms & conditions. Pretty much anything is fair game as long as it is spelled out up front. Which brings me to…

Line Sheets:
This is a critical document which you’ll be emailing or handing out to buyers. It consists of an image of your product, its name or item number, a short description, the wholesale price, and your suggested retail price. The end of the line sheet is typically where you list your terms & conditions as well as your contact information. You can also include an “about” page or an order form if you want.

A line sheet is very similar to a catalog but distinction that I make is that a catalog is more designed with lifestyle photography, complex layouts, or fancy type treatments. If you want to create a catalog by all means do so. But a straightforward line sheet will offer the store buyer all the information they need to decide if they want to place an order.

I recommend setting up your line sheet horizontally since it’s easier for the buyer to browse that format on their computer screen. You can create it in any program that you feel comfortable with but whichever one you use, I would save the end version as a PDF. PDFs are easy to email and they keep your formatting intact (unlike a Word document).

Depending on your skill set you may be better off having someone design your line sheet for you (while you spend the time making more product). I saw a real need from emerging designers who want to take their business to the next level but don’t have the time or desire to learn how to create a line sheet. This is why I’ve started offering custom line sheet packages on Etsy. If you think this might be a good solution for you, feel free to drop me a line with any questions.

Next week, look out for Part Two of this series.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Mosaic: I Have A Dream

Curated by Susanne Guirakhoo, enchantedhue

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let's remember his words.

'Be Inspired' Original Handwritten Painting by McDonaldMixedMedia
Maine Tourmaline Recycled SS Pendant by Beryllina
'Soar' Original Mixed Media Art by JessicaBurko
'Namaste' Yoga Print by thepatterenedpeacock

Love, acceptance, tolerance, equality, liberty, justice, happiness, hope, dignity, equality, freedom - beautiful words that need careful deliberation to be conveyed in art and equally careful deliberation to live by.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why Handmade: Rings and Things

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Lately, I have been hyper-focused on building my inventory. I don’t need to just make new pieces; I need a lot of them. For the last couple of months, I really focused on creating new earrings. I fabricated earrings until I couldn’t see straight, and then I made some more earrings. I didn’t think I could come up with any more designs that could dangle from your ears.

I have now moved on to rings. I am still in the beginning stages, having only made a few over the last week or so. I haven’t grown tired of how many different ways someone can wrap a piece of metal around their finger and call it a ring. I’m enthusiastic this will be even more fun than earrings.

Boyfriend Ring by Cristina Hurley Designs
Rings are easily my favorite type of jewelry, both to wear and to make. Depending on the design, and your activities of choice, they can be the least obtrusive adornment. Admittedly, I have seen outrageous designs, such as a tree growing three feet tall from the base of the ring, but this is not the norm. They can be worn every day, or on special occasions. There are rings with highly symbolic meanings, such as promises, engagements, or marriage. They can be very expensive, and of high quality, or a plastic spider ring from a cereal box.

Recycled Argentium Sterling Silver Apple Blossom Flower Ring by Beryllina

And we mustn’t forget the fun of the mood ring. I have spent more hours than I should allow myself to admit, testing my mood ring, so it can tell me how I am feeling-because you know, I can’t figure it out myself without a ring.

Rings can have a remarkable presence, such as the cocktail ring. There are spinner rings to relieve stress and anxiety, for people who like to click their pens repeatedly. They can be stackable. A ring can be delicate. While we typically think of them being perfect circles, there is no requirement the two ends join at all. They can even connect to a bracelet, a design I hope to explore at some

Mad as a Hatter by Prunella's Workshop

They are also a very personal piece of jewelry. You can buy anyone a necklace as a gift. Earrings aren’t too difficult, as with very little research, you can determine the recipient has pierced ears. However, rings require a little more investigation, as you need to know their ring size.  Typically, a ring, as a gift, is a symbol of love, whether it be romantic, such as an engagement, or familiar, as in a mother’s ring. More so than other types of jewelry, you will find it’s wearer usually has a story to every ring they wear. For example, I have my great-grandmother’s sapphire ring. I was the first great grandchild, first granddaughter after eight grandsons, and sapphires are our birthstone. Also, by some miracle, I was able to find the sapphire when it fell out of the ring on the back staircase of my dorm, the last night of college. All of my rings have similar stories.

Do you have a ring with a story? What is your favorite type of jewelry? Are you building your inventory too?

Sterling Silver Beach Stone Ring by Linkouture

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Mosaic: CCCold!

  1. Cotton Handwoven Cowl Infinity Scarf - Turquoise and Yellow, Loomination
  2. Fiber art weather map - climate change series, Stray Notions
  3. Basic Mitten Pattern, Lady Dye Fiber Arts
  4. Snow Dyed Silk Scarf, Enchanted Hue

Friday, January 10, 2014

Why Handmade: I Can Make That Myself!

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Clockwise from the Left: Abigail Leigh Handbags; Enchanted Hue; Lush Beads; Prunella's Workshop

“I can make that myself!”

A potential customer has been carefully examining a handmade item in a booth at a craft fair or gallery. They seem interested enough to consider purchasing the piece. Then they announce publicly, mutter under their breath, lean over to their companion, and they suggest they should just make
their own.

When you are shopping handmade, and you find yourself asking Can I make that? Maybe you can make something similar, depending on your skill set. Consider the quality of the item, which has piqued your interest. I may be fairly certain I can put together a dog collar, for example, but have I gone through hours upon hours of quality checks to make sure the collar holds? Do I have the resources available check for reliability, and am I willing to take the risk if my work is substandard? I know how to sew; I have a sewing machine; is that adequate?

Hands Free Leash by Cody's Creations

Do you know how to make it? Are you willing to learn? I have been itching to learn how to throw pottery, and have researched a place where I can take a class. However, personally I have tried knitting and crocheting, and it was a disaster. There is nothing like a hand knit sweater, and I wish I still had all the ones my Nana made me growing up. I could learn to do it if I had my heart set on it.

Do you have the tools you need to make that? Craft equipment can be expensive and take up a lot of space, especially if you only plan to make one item. An artisan has made the investment in his/her tools, as this is their livelihood. A fraction of the cost of having those tools, as well as their wear and tear is likely reflected in the price of the item, but it may not come close to the expense of obtaining necessary instruments yourself.

Prunella's Workshop

Are you willing to spend the time necessary to make that? Maybe you do know how to make the desirable item. You have the tools you need, and you would make it well. However, most crafts are very time consuming. Meanwhile, it is completed, right in front of you.

Are you certain you understand what the artist did to create the work? This may sound trite, but over time, an artist’s process will morph into his or her own recipe. Furthermore, I can’t tell you the number of times I have looked at something at a craft fair, only to have an artist tell me it was something completely different. In these instances, it is often fair to say you can’t make it yourself. You are copying their style and technique, which almost never plays out well. It can be similar to trying to steal your co-worker’s recipe for Swedish meatballs without asking for the recipe-you might have gotten better results if you knew what kind of meat they used!

Original Collage with Encaustic and Upcycled Materials by Jessica Burko

Initially, you may feel the piece is too expensive. Consider how long it would take you to make the item. Figure in the cost of tools, equipment, and materials. Think about the level of quality you would achieve. Often times it is not less expensive to make something yourself.

Sometimes, I purchase something handmade, not because I cannot make it myself, but because I can! I appreciate the craftsmanship of my fellow artists, and recognize their distinct flair. My style of work is different, and rather than try to emulate them, I support them.

Universal Pattern Pendant in 14k gold by Cristina Hurley 

Hopefully, for the artist, a shopper goes through these questions in their head, and makes the decision to buy. Maybe the shopper will still contend they want to make something themselves. Sometimes, the potential customer will realize they are looking for a polite way to walk away.

What do you usually say to an artist when you have made the decision you do not want to buy their work?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Why Handmade: Nor’easter Fun

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Given the weather report, by the time you are reading this post we are either in the middle of a nice big nor’easter snowstorm, it’s already over, or it blew over and never really happened. Regardless, it’s really cold outside, and a great time to bundle up by a fireplace, and keep warm.

Snow Birds North Square by Lucie Wicker

It is also a good time for crafting. There are no distractions such as trips to the beach to keep us away from our work. Unless you are lucky enough to be on a plane to a tropical island, the cold is here to stay for a while, which leaves plenty of time for experimentation with new design ideas and techniques. It is also a time to restock the merchandise sold during the holiday season.

For some reason, when a nor’easter is on its way, I don’t think of bundling up and making more jewelry. I imagine sitting next to the fireplace, knitting needles in hand, clicking away at the yarn, as my Nana used to do. She could knit any cartoon character of your choice into a sweater, with just a picture of the character. Alas, I cannot knit for the life of me, despite trying. I do enjoy hand sewing, and embroidery, and I may pull some out as I enjoy the snow falling outside.

Muriel - 220 yards of Peruvian Wool by Lady Dye Fiber Arts

Or perhaps we will do a kid’s craft or two. My son and I love playing with clay. He has a new loom to make bracelets to experiment with. We could just get out some crayons and paper, and scribble out the pictures locked in our heads. We have a bin of construction paper, glue, pom-poms, googly eyes, and any number of other supplies to make hand puppets, or anything else coming to mind.

What do you like to do when you are snow bound? Do you usually do the same craft? Or do you like to switch it up? Maybe there is something completely different you prefer to do during a storm. Hope you all keep warm, and bundle up! Craft On!

Fingerless Gloves by Stray Notions

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Packing up the Gallery

by Kerrie Beck of Cody's Creations

The 2013 Boston Handmade Gallery closed it's doors on December 24th and this past weekend we gathered to dismantle the shop.  It was a month full of fun, crafts, amazing customers and laughs.

We would like to thank all the artists for their wonderful work, and all the customers who came through the door. If you couldn't make it this year or you just cannot stop thinking about something you saw at the gallery, you can see all the individual artists online shops on our website.  Don't forget to sign up for the Boston Handmade newsletter to be the first to hear about our upcoming events!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Pantone Color of the Year

by Kerrie Beck of Cody's Creations

I was super excited to see the 2014 Pantone Color of the Year, Radiant Orchard.  I am eagerly awaiting to see how everyone incorporates this color over the next year, but until then I found some Boston Handmade members who have been using the color already.

Lady Dye has a beautiful hand dyed yarn that incorporates the color of the year. 

Cristina Hurley has created a pedant that quickly become a favorite with every outfit.

The Patterned Peacock has this amazing print that will make a statement in any room.

And your pup can show off their stylish side in a collar by Cody's Creations.

Are you excited for this years color?  What can't you wait to see in this hue?
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