Thursday, 23 June 2011

The question (and price) of silver

So, I took part in my second Altrincham vintage and craft fair on Sunday. I was quite hopeful for it as I'd been pleased with the results and sales at the first one - it had been a nice mix of people, not too busy but a fair amount of folk, chatty and obviously enjoying having a mooch around. Sadly, my second one was not so good. My Mum and my sister came along (Mum was up from Edinburgh to see my sister and I take part in some recitals at college) and they saved the day by buying various things as presents for friends, but I only sold ONE piece to a stranger. She'd been to the previous market and was very enthusiastic about my jewellery and so it was lovely to have a returning customer (she's also commissioned me to make her a bracelet for her wedding!) but I was sad that nothing else sold. I'm not sure if it was a different crowd visiting the market that day - I don't know Altrincham well enough to know who to expect - but I do know that a couple of other jewellery stalls there did well that day. Which is great for them but has left me puzzled as to the dramatic difference between the two market days for me.

I spoke to my mum about it - she visits heaps of craft fairs and is always very nice about my jewellery 'habit'! - and one ting she said she would like to see is more silver. Now, I think many of us who have worked in the past, especially jewellery makers such as myself who are not established sellers, are steering clear of silver at the moment due to the heavy cost. I used to work quite often with sterling, but I have given up recently - partly because I absolutely love the patinated copper and brass I usually work with now, but mainly I've got to say, because of the high price tag that comes attached to silver.

So I've been trying to figure out how to make some pieces using silver but keeping the cost down. I've made a bunch of very simple earrings using beads such as pearls and vintage crystal(and in fact am now waiting on some more silver ear wires coming in the post) 

and a couple of pendants (also waiting on fine silver chain). 

Love this bead frame especially - I've had a couple of these in my silver box for years but never quite figured out how best to use it....I like this simple pendant.

I don't want to move away from my (still developing) style, but I do love silver, and it does give people options when looking at my work. I have quite a few friends who can only wear silver or gold in their ears so it's always good to remember that when creating.

What do other folk think about this? I know that silver isn't everyone's bag but I do personally love it, both oxidised and bright. So I'm going to try and keep some simple pieces in my stash of jewellery and see if they catch anyone's eye next time around. I hope I'm not just pandering to what I think (guess!) potential customers might want (I don't think I am, I really like all the pieces I've made) but am hopefully staying true to myself as a designer, whilst giving people options and keeping an eye on the purse strings.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.


TesoriTrovati said...

Hey Rebecca! I don't do a lot of shows, just one in the fall, and what sets me apart from most other jewelry vendors is that I don't use silver. So I speak to a whole different crowd. But I do like little touches mixed in with other metals and that might be a way to get people to convert to your new evolving style. Show some with just a bit of silver or silver with just a touch of copper/brass, etc. At the Bead & Button show I saw a lot more alternative metals. There are a lot of really nice pewter pieces out there that give the look of real silver without the price. As long as your tags and prices reflect that, I think that it is a viable alternative. And there was one product called Glinter that I liked but didn't buy. A much closer match to silver.
Good luck! Shows are fickle. But I think that it is really the buying public, not you, because I have seen what you do and it is very nice!
Enjoy the day!

Cillaw said...

Hi Rebecca,
I don't think it is your jewelery.
It may have been your display. I know that can greatly affect who approaches. Do you have any photos of your display to critique?
Also, usually it is great to ask an admission because then the real shoppers come out and not just the ones that come by and ask you lots of questions then say they are just getting ideas. UGH! Don't let this get you down. You make great jewellery (is that how you spell it in the UK? that is how we spell jewellery in Canada)

steufel said...

I've never done a craft fair, but I can totally understand what you mean. But I think your stuff is beautiful and right up my valley, so I guess it must have been the audience and not your jewelry. And for me the most important thing is to follow the heart and not the trends because those are always changing but your voice as an artist stands forever!

Lesley said...

HI Rebecca
I've not done any shows yet but like you am torn between using more silver in my work. It's just a personal observation but I think the UK market is less aware/informed/in love with alternative metals in jewellery. Most of the people I show my work to are really impressed with what can be done with copper etc but just haven't been that aware of it - thinking of copper jewellery only in terms the of the old medicinal products. Obviously that's a generalisation as your previous show went well.
I think there is definitely a lack of understanding of the price of silver too, as I often get asked 'can you do that in silver, and when I say 'yes but....' people are shocked by the difference in price as they don't see it reflected so much in mass produced high street jewellery. I have a friend who makes high end precious metal jewellery and she now has a graphic representation of the change in metal prices over the lat 2 years that she display's at shows.
I love copper but like you do miss silver and am trying to work it into my designs by balancing the other elements. I used to use silver a lot with just lampwork but this can become beyond peoples reach.
I agree with Malin about design principles though - It's difficult to balance design integrity with sales sometimes in the current climate but first and foremost I have to work the way I love to work or the end results will not be good.
From what i've heard generally, shows don't seem to perform as well as they have in the past -like most channels in the current climate I guess.
I hope your next show is better for you - I have first show booked pre-Christmas - fingers crossed.
Your work is just beautiful so keep doing what you're doing.

Braids and More said...

Hi Rebecca,
I'm not sure I can say anything that hasn't been said already. However, I do agree that you should go with your own instincts and carry on making jewellery that makes you happy and proud, rather than trying to figure out what other people want. Your creations are beautiful and there is definitely a market out there for it. I've also had the experience of selling next to nothing and then a week later selling LOADS - and, being surprised that people are buying what I consider to be my most off-the-wall pieces! So, hang on in there, go with your heart and love what you are doing.

My Life Under the Bus said...

So much good advice here - I haven't done a "show" yet but do have people come to my home to pick up and purchase items. I've noticed on line Brass does well as well as copper in person here - people look more at silver. Why? No idea. I've almost given up on silver - it's just too pricey for me. I do have a few earrings and necklaces where I use 2-3 mm sterling rounds and a sterling clasp with paerls or Czech glass that keep the price reasonable. Earrings are really the easiest/most affordable way to lure people in. Perhaps once they reall see all your stuff they will fall for other metals too! Some days it's just exhausting!!! Your work is beautiful - Malin is right follow your heart and the rest will come! XOXO

Mary Ann Tate said...

I think your jewelry is beautiful but it may be a good idea to add a few silver pieces to offer a choice to your customers. That will make them look at what you are selling overall and then they may buy other pieces of your work. Also, some one mentioned your display. That is very important. I don't make jewelry but I have some experience in selling my wares at craft shows. My first show was in 1982:) It's become quite common here that show organizers want to see a picture of my wares and my table display before I'm considered as a seller. I have no problem with that as it means that they are considering the "look" of the show that they are putting on. It can be very dispiriting when you go to a show and make no sales but that is part of the business I'm afraid. I once went to show with about 60 plus vendors and not one of us made a sale. I think we had about 10 people in total come to the craft show but not one of them bought anything. It was a well publicized show in a good location so who knows why it was a bust.

Jo said...

It's late, so I'm afraid that this isn't going to be a long comment with lots of advice, especially as I'd only be repeating much of the same great advice that everyone has already given you!
Erin is so right - craft fairs can be very fickle, especially out doors ones I've found. Don't let the experience you had at your last one put you off - your work is absolutely gorgeous, such a beautiful style of mixing materials and colours. In the end you do have to make what your designer's heart tells you to - that's part of what makes your work shine.
As for the silver question...well you know already that I work mainly with silver. I am working hard to be inventive with how I use silver to keep the amount of material and therefore costs down. I think that members of the public are starting to realise how much silver costs nowadays. Prehaps you could have one or two pieces that are silver (making sure that you price them accordingly) so that people can make their own comparisons of price and their own decisions.


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