Think for a moment about all of most successful companies. They all have one very important common factor: vision. They're recognizable because they have a brand, a certain "look", a niche. This doesn't just hold true for mass-produced items. Think of artists for a moment- Monet was known for his particular style, which was very different from Picasso's, which was very different from Da Vinci's. When we think about all of the successful artists and companies, they set themselves apart by creating a vision, a voice- something that is markedly theirs. The questions is: How do we go about creating our unique vision in the world of handmade jewelry?
The first step to creating your vision is to know who you are. Are you sweet? Edgy? Free-spirited? Classy? How do you describe yourself? You want your pieces to reflect who you are- all of your uniqueness. Do you favor bold, bright color schemes; or are you elegant and muted? Are your pieces over-the-top couture or sophisticated simplicity? Does your inspiration come from Nature? Literature? Old Hollywood?
I would suggest to pull all of the pieces you have readily available and to lay them out together. Observe your designs thus far. Are your pieces cohesive? Would someone look at your jewelry and say "This is definitely a [insert your name here] piece"? If you have a general theme or statement, perfect you're on the right track to creating your vision.
If on the other hand your pieces are all over the place and there is no particular rhyme or reason to your designs, separate the pieces you like the best and think about what it is about them that you like. Is it a color scheme, a certain style of wirework, or the way in which you strung the beads? What stories do those pieces tell? What do they make you feel? Once you know what it is that's drawing your attention to those pieces, try designing around that particular style or technique.
It's important to note that this isn't about recreating the same thing over and over, but about focusing your energy on what's really "you" and allowing that to guide your design process so that your personality becomes a "stamp" of sorts on your work.
If you're just getting started and you really don't know what your style is, don't let that deter you. Look at pictures of jewelry and make yourself a collage of things that catch your eye. It's very likely you'll start to see that you're drawn to a particular style and you can use your collage as inspiration for when you actually start your own designs. You can create a vision no matter where you are in your jewelry-making journey.
Know Your Audience
Once you know what your unique style is, it doesn't end there. You also have to consider who your audience is. This is actually a bit easier because the truth of the matter is that people tend to buy from those with whom they have something in common with. People want to buy from someone that they "get" from someone that they "vibe" with.
Since by this phase you've already explored who you are as an artist and what it is that you want to portray it's simply a matter of finding other people who can understand and appreciate your style and expression.
If you're a classic, romantic, Jane Austen- reading, tea party-holic who makes pearl and crystal throwback style jewelry, guess what? You should probably look for other Austen fans who will totally "get" all of your literary references and who will absolutely adore everything you make. Think of the types of places your target audience will frequent: Antique shops? Historical reenactment clubs? Bookstores? This is just an example, but these can all become possible outlets for selling your pieces either through events or consignment.
Another great idea is to join Facebook groups and discussion boards where your audience is likely to be. Simply participating in occasional discussions will help you put your name out there and establish relationships.
Share Your Story
Story-telling is a huge part of the design process. Once you know your vision and you know your audience, it's time to tell your story. Share the inspiration behind your pieces, paint a picture of how those earrings are going to add sparkle to that first date outfit or how that statement necklace is going to turn your patron into the belle of the ball. Your story will resonate with your audience and they will be drawn to your designs not just because they're "pretty", but because they want the vision that your design has created for them.
So next time you sit down to create something, remember who you are as a designer, remember who your audience is and create a story that expresses your vision and resonates with your audience on an emotional level. They definitely will come back for more.
We've all been there. You have a brilliant idea in your mind for a new project and you're just so excited about getting down to work and making it happen when all of a sudden your glue doesn't adhere properly (like what happened in the picture above with my messy beads) or your stitches don't line up like they should and you're just so frustrated you want to scrap it all and walk away.
Or, how about this one: You show one of your friends a bracelet or necklace that you made thinking that they're going to love it, but instead they're unimpressed, or worse- they politely feign admiration while giving you design pointers.
And then there's the very concerned family member or friend who's going to advise you not to bother posting your jewelry on Etsy, or taking part in that craft fair because "there's so much competition" and "it's just not a viable source of income."
These things happen and much, much more- like the time I was selling at a flea market and a lady walked up to my booth and tried to steal my customers-- right in front of me.
Oh yes, the world is full of all sorts of struggles and craziness. Perhaps you feel that you're at the end of your rope. You may have been posting your designs online for weeks or months without anyone buying. You may be frustrated because you're trying to learn and want to improve your skills, but you still feel that you're not good enough. And I'm here to tell you that it's ok. It's ok to feel frustrated and to want to give up. It's ok to be sad and disappointed that things haven't worked out the way you would have liked. And I'm also going to tell you that you will run into these emotions and circumstances quite often as a jewelry designer.
The important question is: are you going to give up at the first (or second, third, etc.) hiccup? So what if your friend doesn't see your vision? So what if you need to practice a little more? So what if you make a couple wonky pieces before you make a gem? Didn't Thomas Edison fail a couple thousand times before he succeeded?
With this established, I will leave you with a very important concept: Success doesn't belong to those who don't fail- it belongs to those who keep going after they fail.
If it really is your dream to make and sell jewelry, don't give up. Keep learning, keep designing, keep sharing your work, and whatever you do- don't give up!
P.S. By the way, after making a few messy beads like the ones in the picture above, I finally made it work out and wrote my tutorial for turning ugly paper beads into beautiful ones.