Selling Jewelry with a Disability

by Kathleen.
(Lilac Moon Jewelry – Florida)

auger shell earrings by Kathleen

Auger shell earrings

Hi Rena & Fellow artists!

Without a lot of fluff I’ll go straight to my question.

Is there anyone here that deals with Fibromyalgia and have you figured out a way to sell your jewelry when your Fibro keeps you limited to doing activities?

I’m struggling with this problem now.

I have 2 Etsy shops: and – this shop is on hold for the time being.

Goddess collection ear cuff by Kathleen

One image from my “goddess” collection of ear cuffs

Craft shows require the artist to be there for up to 12 hours between setting up and breaking down.

I physically can’t handle that.

Besides the fibro I deal with several spine issues that add to my limited mobility.

I get rave reviews from people that do see my jewelry and ask why I don’t have it in a shop.

Well, I don’t know how to approach this issue without running all over town.

Is it bad etiquette to email?

Is it okay to ask a vendor to show a few of my things and give them a percentage?

I have a ton of these questions and I just do not know where to turn.

If you can offer any ideas I am open to all and any. 🙂

Thanks in advance for your time.



Lilac Moon Jewelry
The Magic Faerie

* UPDATE from Alicia, JMJ Content & Soc Media specialist:
This great post was the start of a whole new group of artists. As you read through the comments please be aware that group has since moved from it’s original platform and can now be found on Facebook as the Physically Challenged Artist Support Group.

Information contained in this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. No products mentioned in this post have been tested or endorsed by Rena Klingenberg.

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  1. Tamara says:

    Hi Kathy – Your jewellery is beautiful! The thought that went through my head is that it would be great if you could find someone to work with you to market your jewellery. Someone to take your creations around to a few boutiques and represent you well. Or to do a sale for you occasionally, or help in whatever way that the two of you would work out. Maybe you could look into an arrangement like that.

  2. I too have physical limitations that keep me from being as active as I would like to be. I have swallowed my pride and now do almost all shows from a wheelchair. I am blessed to have a husband who usually takes me and helps set up and take down if his schedule permits. I have also just put a booth in a craft mall where there is a fulltime owner to supervise and handle sales on a commission basis.So far so good with that. I think a lot of us with special needs are artists of one kind or another to provide the creative outlet we previously had on the job or some other parts of a more “normal” life. Its just a trial and error to find what works best for now. Good luck with your beautiful art!!

  3. Dianna says:

    I understand your frustration; I have spinal challenges, ouch, and also ADD. I am learning by trial and error, but I am making slow but good progress. I rarely have help so I keep evolving in how I sell my jewelry. I sell at farmer’s markets, craft fairs and have jewelry in stores on consignment, on ebay and I am working on my website. It’s up, but I am not yet happy with it.

    I have all my jewelry and props I need in plastic containers that are easy to use and not too heavy for fairs. Plus I usually have to bring a tent, tables, chairs. So they have to be light weight and fit on my dolly. some days are much harder than others as you know. Rarely does anyone offer to help, they usually just sit and watch me. So I have learned to ask for help if I really need it. I live in Hawaii and the aloha spirit at some of these fairs I attend regularly, is not there.

    I take my time and do not stress out if I am not set up on time, which is usually the case. Everything is packed and ready to go the night before. I pray to my angels, Spirit for strength and assistance, because it does help me. I am 60 and disabled, I never stop trying. Because I enjoy creating and offering my jewelry to those that like them. I have learned to stop worrying if I will be able to do what’s needed each time. I accept the times that I must stay home and rest and not worry. I try to do my best, if it works great, if not that’s great too. By worrying you focus all your attention on what you don’t want, I now know that if I can see what I want to happen and know it will come true, it usually does. if it doesn’t that’s OK there will be another day (if not, it doesn’t matter anyway).

    In finding places to sell my jewelry, I meander through boutiques, and specialty shops because I am picky about who sells my jewelry. When I find a place I like, I strike up a conversation with the owner about her/his store and if it feels right I just ask if they would be interested and show them a few of my pieces (my best, good, and my maybes.) There is always another shop to go to if it doesn’t work out. Of course I do this on days that I am feeling good. Believe in yourself, and that you have good quality jewelry because you do.

    I also own and live and work on my 7 acre farm. It’s a great place to retire here, I wake up every morning with my cat next to me, and to a chorus of hundreds of birds, chickens and a disabled rooster. Its truly paradise to me, but I work hard every day because I want to and enjoy the journey now.

  4. I have a bad back (2 car “accidents”), a bad knee and a lifetime of carpal tunnel. I go home from the Saturday farmer’s market and sleep for 12 to 15 hours to recuperate my back. I blew out my knee two weeks ago at the market — too much standing in one place and talking to people. Most venues are way too noisy to remain sitting behind a three-foot table — effectively five feet of noisy air space — to talk to customers and hear what they’re saying over the ambient rumble and roar. I invite customers to come and sit beside me to chat at length. They’re grateful for the opportunity to drop their bags and sit for a few minutes, too.

    I’m constantly amazed at how many other people are dealing with disabilities alongside me, and we talk all the time about workarounds. I too do everything on my own, but I have been lucky enough to sell beside truly helpful people — one particular vendor always sets up and takes down my tent for me when we’re at the same venue (and I always buy from him). At the Saturday market, the managers help several of the disabled vendors by bringing their bins and display risers out of the storage locker and putting them all at their table every morning, or they unload the vendor’s vehicle on arrival and set up their tent, table and display. All you gotta do is ask — don’t leave it until the last minute. A lot of craft shows have runners whose job it is to bring coffee/meals, watch your table while you take a break, and they’re available to help the disabled vendors bring stuff in from the parking lot and help set up, or even if you just have heavy/awkward items. You have to ask for help, though. Nobody is a mind-reader. I was at a bridal show last fall and before it started I was walking around looking at what was on display. There was another jewellery vendor there — in a wheelchair — and way behind in setting up her table because her helper was late. I laid out half her table for her because she couldn’t reach the back bits.

    One trick definitely is packing light and smart and, yes, to load up the vehicle the night before, although as soon as the temperature drops below freezing that isn’t possible. My problem is time spent on my feet, so I preload most of my display (see my blog, as well as here in the packaging and display section what other people do) in order to minimise the setup time until I can sit down. For indoor shows on concrete floors, many vendors bring shock absorbent floor mats with them. I would do that, but since I spend most of my vertical time at the front of my table when talking with people a floor mat is not really useful in my case.

    Carpal tunnel? Arthritis? Gaaaah… I do wire work and hammering. Agony. Here I thought making jewellery would be a better alternative to typing for a living! You need to learn your own limits and pay attention so you don’t end up ruining your hands. There are plenty of exercises and home treatments to mitigate the stress, damage and pain caused by excessive keyboarding and/or improper posture and many of them will work for the repetitive stress we subject our hands, wrists and shoulders to, such that even opening a jump ring is impossible.

  5. Forgot to mention, Kathleen — You do beautiful work! Personally, after four years of selling at markets/shows, with a disability I think stores are the way to go, because that 30% or so commission can be onerous, but at the same time, they’re open to the public 5, 6 or 7 days a week for 8 to 10 hours, absorbing the staffing, advertising, bag/box costs.

    While it takes time to find the right store(s) with the right owner/manager and in the right place for your particular style/price range, once you do, you’re almost home free. Now you just have to sit at home and make stuff. Your next decision is a little harder? Do you go to more expensive materials and make/sell fewer items and so go easier on yourself? Or do you go with less expensive materials and have to make and sell far more items to make enough money to make it worthwhile from a financial point of view, but destroying your health in the process? There are always tradeoffs.

  6. Our disabilities and/or health issues can often discourage us and add fear to our awareness. I congratulate you for not allowig your disabilities to bring you down emotionally. This is a huge achievement.

    Ask a friend or friends to go with you as you approach your potential venues. Friends want to help. They can look around the shop while you are speaking with the shop owner. I sometimes think none of my friends would be interested, however I have been very pleasantly surprised with their over whelming positive responses. Also, new friends from support groups are there to help you.

    Your ear cuff is beautiful and I believe it would be a perfect item to sell in hair and beauty salons. Remember, shops want to make money and a beautiful piece of jewelry can help them do that. In my experience the shop might want to buy the piece from you and then sell it. They usually buy the jewelry at half (50%) of what you are selling it for. Other shops will sell your jewelry on consignment. You leave the jewelry with them and when they sell it they will keep 40% and send you 60% of the selling price.

    I hope this is of some value to you and wish you the best of success. – Linda

  7. You have such beautiful jewelry, Kathleen, that I hope you are able to continue selling.

    As most others that have commented, I also have a disability. I suffer with chronic migraines, something which strikes often and quickly and keeps me from working on a regular schedule.

    I have chosen so far to concentrate my selling on Etsy. There are many sellers on Etsy so it is difficult to stand out. However, if you find a niche, join Etsy teams and use the helpful information Etsy provides, your business can slowly build up.

    I have chosen to concentrate on simple styles – which I happen to prefer and which have a niche of their own – so that I can maximize the time spent in making my jewelry. Unfortunately, the fact that sales build slowly means you might have to still sell in another way until you are established (this is what I am doing).

    Selling online gives you flexibility to both create, post and market when you are feeling well.

    Another suggestion to help support you is to have a second Etsy store where you sell supplies only. Can you have someone collect shells for you and then resell them? Or if you can find a good wholesaler to buy a specific product in larger quantities which you can resell in smaller lots. Or put ads in the newspaper for something specific – vintage buttons, games, etc. where you can break them down to resell the pieces.

    I have a second Etsy shop – – where I sell bottles, jars, bags and craft books (I just opened it up a few days ago). I can sell these items both on my shop and eBay. Just an idea for additional income.

    Wish you the best…Laura

  8. Karen Cook says:

    You could also look into leveraging social media and other things to make your Etsy shops ‘work harder’ for you. The Handmadeology blog ( ) focuses on that kind of stuff specifically for Etsy shop owners.

  9. JoAnne says:

    I love your work. Do not limit yourself to craft malls. I have been in an Antique mall for the past 5 years. It is the only market that has been sucessful for me. I have a comfortable folding chair for those who want to just get off their feet for a while. We usually end up talking and they usually end up buying.

    I have a work table and some jewelry in progress. People love to watch. The owner swears that sales are up when I am there because people come to visit me and then they wander through the store.

    And don’t forget the future beaders. I buy small kits in bulk. They are inexpensive enough to give away, the youngster is engaged, allowing Mom to shop. My card goes in the White lunch bag with a sticker on the outside.

    The Antique Mall is open 3 and 1/2 days a week. While I can no longer go in that often, or stay from 10 to 5, I can go at least one day. Keep it up. I am 74 in a wheelchair and still making my pretties.

  10. I have fibromyalgia, too, and have quit doing the shows except for one where I do well each year. At many of them I was hardly paying the fee and would be in bed for 2 days after the show. Setting up, standing up that much, and taking down take a toll on my legs and now I sell on Artfire and Tophatter and will do the one show. I was taking way too much inventory though, and am now concentrating more on particular items so it will be easier to set up and take down. I love Rena’s earring idea about the chest. I keep a lot of my inventory set up and ready, but it is still a lot of work. You have to decide whether a particular show is worth it or not.

    Blingsupreme on Artfire, Bonanza and Tophatter

  11. Kathy, Thank you soooooo much for being brave enough to put yourself out there by asking others with disabilities for suggestions to keep doing what you love. I am 33 y/o and have had 2 open chest surgeries, 1 to remove a tumor, and 1 an attempt, but failed, to repair an unhealed sternum. Anyway, I am now perm. disabled due to lifting restrictions and severe pain.

    I have been doing jewelry since getting sick and have recently expanded into doing metalwork. My best advice is to take building your business very very slow. For me taking my time has given me the opportunity to create the situations that I can physically commit to. Organization is also another key part. Inventory, as much as I hate it, decreases stress which decreases my pain lol.

    Hope this helps.

  12. Hey Kathy,I too have Fibromyalgia, and it’s tough. I have a dear friend who assists me on craft show, she’s always with me when I go and does most of the work. This way I can be present, but take my time to rest as well. The shows still take quite a lot of energy to go to, but it’s so pleasant to be somewhere different than at home. Feel free to mail me if yu want to talk about it. Keep up the beautiful work , anne

  13. Dear Kathy,
    You have asked a question I have been afraid to ask for a long time!
    I have fibro, RA and lupus…triple shot.

    In a perfect world I would love to find a rep that is honest and trustworthy to represent me to shops and such.

    But here and now I take it slow. Part of what frustrates me most is that I get that fibro fog and I can’t understand things. So I retreat further from the world. I can’t understand how to do seo stuff or those like facebook and twitter. It is so frustrating!!! I am in bed for days at a time. Sometimes I don’t even move cuz I can’t move. Or like some said I sleep for 16 hours to recoup after trying to hard because I felt good one day and tried to do everything at once.

    I have wanted to give up. But I have to not think that way. Jewelry is my salvation from the pain and frustration, as well as lifting my self esteem. I’m so happy when someone tells me they like my jewelry :). I have a shop on ArtFire. It took me years to set up. For a long time that site was free, so I took my time and figured out how to work my camera and say things.

    I wish for a site where I could talk about these things with other artists but I have no energy to start one!

    I just finished a piece that took me a year to complete. I have to take lots of breaks and try to eat right and get lots of sleep. I give my friends business cards and free jewelry so they are my advertisers. I also love Rena’s wonderful sites. I have lots of people coming to my site from these sites when I publish my work here.

    Your things are lovely. You have, through your photos shown how ethereal your jewelry world is. I really like that. You are very romantic.
    I hope this helps a bit. Oh I also try to take advantage of sites like wanelo (want-need-love = wanelo) that let you have collections and publish them. The same thing is on ArtFire. People put their collections together and sometimes these make the front page but even if they don’t other members see them. I just was included in one today.

    My heart goes out to you dear one. I hope you keep on doing that beautiful jewelry. I have written down your website and I will write whenever I here of something to help those of us who are struggling with severe diseases.


  14. I have fibro, etc. too. What I tell myself: forget about earring cards, jewelry tags and all that stuff. Concentrate on making your jewelry. This will give you the most satisfaction and you won’t be wasting your precious “functional” time.

    I sell at 2 craft shows per year and share a table with someone. This year, I was able to get in with a group of visual artists for a 4-day “Fest”. They take a 15% commission and I don’t have to be there at all if I don’t want to. I just have to set up and take down my display. This group of artists has been brought together by an art gallery.

    I would be happy not doing craft shows at all. I have jewelry at 2 boutiques. One has done well for me, the other is new so I’ll give it time. This way I have waay less “marketing” to do and I get lots of feedback from the owners. Being at the boutiques also gives me more chances to do custom work.

    Good luck. Try to stay positive!

  15. In regards to a previous comment does anyone know of any sites that are devoted to this topic? Or would others be interested in brainstorming constructing some kind of blog/online group thing for disabled jewelers? I would LOVE to be involved but have no idea what or how to do it. FYI my previous post led to the wrong Pinterest account so I fixed it now.
    Thank YOu

  16. Hi Jenny,
    A blog sounds kind of cool. Perhaps all of us here can come up with ideas. I am so glad for Kathy’s question cuz I never wanted anyone to know and that has kept me withdrawing from the world. I really want to change that.

    I have gone through so many emotions with this chronic pain and I have just recently given up hating them and hating my body too. I’d like to step out more now and have some buddies who know what it’s like to live though the pain and frustration.
    Who knows what the next moment holds for us.

  17. Patricia Murray says:

    I, too, have fibromyalgia & chronic back pain from some surgeries. I have found that the best way to sell my jewelry is by wearing it and my best customers are friends & family. I tried Etsy, but I just didn’t have the energy to keep the site up. It takes hours each day & I can’t do it.

    I do a couple of craft fairs a year. My husband usually packs everything up for me & puts it in the car the night before. Than when I get there, I try to find someone who can help me get everything to my booth. Also, I try to take a friend along, that way I can take a break when I need to. Most of the time, my friends want to help with set up & tear down.

    I put everything I will need into rolling bins and keep a dolly in my car to make it easy to get things to my booth. Also, a lot of the fairs will rent you tables & chairs if you let them know that you are disabled, so you don’t have to carry those.

    Take plenty of pillows to sit on and food & drinks. You don’t want to get dehydrated. Additionally, you might want to join your local Bead Society, as that is a good way to meet other beaders who might want to help you out.

    By the way your jewelry is beautiful. Keep your spirits & energy up.

  18. Would anyone be interested in joining Diana and I in our quest to develop some kind of blog, or website, or online gallery to support and create a community of disabled artists?

  19. JoAnne says:

    I don’t know how much help I could offer, but I own a website or two that would mean a free site. I also know a tiny bit about CSS & HTML. I asked Rena if she knew anyone and she had a suggestion or 2 including that the forum be open to all crafters who allow nothing to stop them from crafting.

  20. Erm… I’m trying to cut down on these types of activities! lol Not that I wouldn’t love to read and post on such a site. But helping to develop? Regretfully, I’ve learned that I have to say “no” to a lot of stuff.

  21. One more thought: Is there anything wrong with having it right here?

    Rena, would you provide the space? There’s obviously already a little community going for disabled artists. I’m not sure what kind of administration it would entail, though. Rena already does so much.

  22. I’m so glad to see everyone here sharing ideas and finding each other! 🙂

    I’m very happy for you to use this new “Disabilities & Jewelry Making” section here to discuss things that are at the intersection of disabilities + jewelry.

    If you want to discuss issues that go beyond that, I did a bit of research for more general groups related to disabilities + crafting. Although I found a few, most of them seem to be “ghost towns” with few members and mainly unanswered posts.

    I did find one online community, which although it has 24 registered members as of this writing, only 4 people seem to be posting regularly there. However, those 4 folks do seem to be friendly and posting pretty regularly – and if you added your voices there it might start picking up more steam:

    I spent about half an hour googling for things like “disabled crafters” and “disabled artists” – and most of what I found was not very useful if you’re looking for a forum or community where you can have conversations.

    If you decide to start a forum, blog or other online community for disabled crafters / artists, one of the most important things you’ll need to do is to find a way to get the word out to your targeted audience so they’ll know about your new gathering place.

    You’ll also need to have one or more people to be administrators who can check in there nearly every day to welcome people, post replies, and delete spam.

    If you start a community – keeping it friendly, keeping the conversations going, helping people feel like they are being heard and valued, and keeping out the junk are what keep folks coming back! 🙂

  23. Hi Everyone,
    Alicia here. Jewelry Making Journal Content Specialist <-- For those that don't already know me. 🙂 I wanted to chime in on this post because I have another option that might work nicely for creating a place where you can get together and easily invite in other kindred spirits. A Facebook Group. If you're a FB user then you already have the power to create a group. (Look for "create a group" down your left navigation.) Because it works just like your FB profile there is no techie work involved. You can make the group public and searchable within FB, or totally lock it down like a classified secret that requires an invite to get in. All you need are a couple of people willing to be admins to invite folks in, and do whatever else may come up that needs attention as far as the posts themselves, but it's totally low maintenance. The group works just like your FB feed so there's no learning curve. When someone posts in the group notifications go out to the members just like they do with the friends you follow. There is also that nifty tag feature where you can post and call it to the attention of someone in particular by just typing their name in the post. And of course you can share links, photos, videos....pages here at JMJ 😉 and anything else that would interest the group. I think it's a good option because it takes the burden of "ownership" off of any one person. It's just a group that lives in Facebook. If you can rotate the admin responsibilities, which really don't amount to much, and have even just a few active members you can have a very positive, productive online gathering space that isn't too much for any one person to handle. Like I said, it's just a thought. Whatever ultimately comes together please do let Rena or I know via the contact page and we'll be happy to pass the link to your new community for artists with disabilities on to the rest of the JMJ community.

  24. I was actually thinking along the same lines for now. I just started my FB business page and am a member of a chronic pain FB group, and am also an admin for a group I developed called Healthy Living. So I’d be willing to commit to doing some admin.

  25. Oh this is getting exciting! With Rena and Alicia contributing it is great!
    Can’t write much now….one of those days…sigh, but I’ll try to keep up.
    Thank you guys,

  26. I am soooo motivated to get this going!!!! I am only 33 yrs old but feel like I’m 100.

    We moved from my home back in WI to PA where even after 2 years I don’t have any friends, unlike back home where I was totally social even with my disabilities. How can you really meet people when your fairly homebound? It’s tough. Jewelry making gets me through tho.

    I just think from a social aspect this would help me greatly. Also I take most of my inspiration from 2 places, nature, and other people. So this will be a great source of inspiration to see others who make beautiful jewelry despite, or inspite of physical challenges that they refuse to let take over their entire sense of purpose.

    Making and selling jewelry is my way of bringing joy to others. The more people in my life that share with this mission the better. So lets go on this crazy and wild ride together!

  27. I’ve done some thinking and I have a proposal for us to consider. But first I wanted to ask Rena and Alicia a question. How could we use this magazine for our purpose of a support community? Would we just continue as we have been? Just posting comments?

    So I’m thinking the best route to take would be to start simple and small and once we get a good size following then consider putting together some kind of separate website and gallery. That way we would also have a bigger pool of Artisans to help share the role of admin responsibilities. LIke I said I have the time, at least over the next couple months while on summer break, to do full time admin on the following if we go through with them. I think a good idea would be to start up a facebook group and or page for artists to give each other general support, design ideas, etc. You can then post new pics of your work here and there. Then I also think we could do a Pinterest page. On the Pinterest we can post all the pics of our jewelry we could possibly want. I could set it up with the main page being whatever name we come up with. Then I think everyone would have the same password etc to be able to access and post to a “board” on the groups page. Every artist can have their own board that would be for them to post any and all pics you would want.

    I think it would be great to do both because Pinterest is more about exposure of pics of our product and merchandise, and then facebook would be more for talking and communicating with occasional pics. Both are free and I feel would compliment each other well, be very easy for the technological impaired to get used to both sites, which by the way are VERY easy to use, I promise lol.

    After we get a good following then we could consider additional options. So what do you think?


  28. I’m all for a blog or whatever we come up with to keep all of us in touch with each other. I mentioned this to Kathy via Etsy one day and we agreed that something is needed. I’m willing to take on a little work!

    I have Fibromyalgia, and have had 10 operations in the last 8 years – mostly on my joints (I replaced knee, 2 replaced hips, 2 back operations, 1 neck operation). I’m older – almost 74 – and because my hubby is disabled, we don’t get out much anymore. I also live in a city of 10,000 which does not offer a bunch of things that larger cities do. I normally do our one show per year, but pulled out this year because of my Fibro pain and fatigue. This is not my home city so I don’t know a bunch of people who I can call on to help me.

    Get in touch with me – I’m ready for my marching orders!

  29. Thank you Joanne for your website info. If you want could tell us a little more about it?
    I for one, am just not an FB person. I can’t understand it. It does not make any kind of sense to me. So if you guys go that way I’ll just have to bow out.

    Thank you too for offering us a place right here. That is so generous.

  30. Hi Jenny,
    Alicia here.

    As Content Specialist here at Jewelry Making Journal, I wanted to answer your questions, but first I want to give a little of my background so that you and everyone else following this thread can get a sense of who I am; what I’m about, and most important; why Rena would trust me to do this.

    I promise I’ll keep it short. OK well…..sort of short. 🙂

    Rena started out as my jewelry making mentor very much like many of you here. I poured over her original site, Home Jewelry Business Success Tips, for hours after my ex left me to be a single mom of three, with some health issues of my own. From that came my own line of jewelry. The creation of that jewelry business helped anchor me during a very difficult time in my life.

    I spent several years building that business while working full time in the human resources field. However, my inner techie, and my need to be at home to care for an ill parent prompted me to “follow” Rena into the arena of online publishing where I have had a respectable level of success. Cool right? 🙂

    Over this span of almost 10 years of my growing and learning how to be smart in business, Rena has gone from being my mentor, to my friend, to my colleague. She was one of the first people to recognize the skills I possessed that enabled me to create my online business consultancy and became my first, and one of my most important clients.

    She’s one of my most important clients because this community she has created is near and dear to my heart. I am a jewelry junky, bead-a-holic from way back so I absolutely love being responsible for posting all your beautiful work as well as being instrumental in helping Rena grow her business and her brand.

    Her goal has always been to give you everything you need to succeed in the best format possible for you.

    My goal is to help her make that happen in ways that always end in Win-Win.

    I say all that so that you understand who I am and where I’m coming from when I answer your question, “How could we use this magazine for our purpose of a support community?”

    Unfortunately Jenny, it’s not possible to root a disabled artists support community here at JMJ.

    Without going into the nuts and bolts details, the structure of this site and the nature of the JMJ business would not make it a doable thing here.

    You asked, “Would we just continue as we have been? Just posting comments?” Each comment stream has a limit. Fortunately, it’s generous enough to handle the conversations that happen normally for any given post, but we couldn’t have broader conversations that could go indefinitely, in different directions in one thread.

    In addition to staying within the art of jewelry making and selling topics, the comments need to stay focused on the post they appear under.

    To add the Disabilities and Jewelry Making category was a brilliant idea sent in by someone who reads JMJ. Both Rena and I were excited to add it, but it has to stay specific to work-arounds and ways of dealing with your jewelry business and jewelry creation when there are also physical limitations.

    To expand that to include crafting in general, or other art mediums would be expanding beyond the jewelry umbrella and we just can’t do that.

    In order for Rena’s vision to continue to thrive, the focus here at JMJ has to remain on making and selling jewelry. Broader discussions of disabilities – beyond how they affect making and selling jewelry – are also beyond the scope of JMJ, and would grow and flow better on a different type of platform.

    However, we both think a larger support group that includes many different artists with disabilities is an awesome idea and feel honored that something with that much potential to help a segment of the artistic community may have begun here at JMJ, so we don’t want to put a damper on your excitement.

    So I asked Rena if it would be OK for me to give you a little….umm…let’s call it a mini consult to help you make this happen on a better suited platform.

    If I had a client come to me with your idea and they wanted some direction on how to make it a reality this is a condensed example of what I would tell them.

    – Start with small group of interested artists on a very simple platform that is free and requires very little technical know-how or time invested in set up.

    – Normally, I would say start with some due diligence and see if there is a demand, but you already know from the response here that there is. That’s enough to get you started.

    – My belief is still that a Facebook group is the best place to continue the conversation on a broader scale. Facebook is a free place where you can brainstorm AND invite in other types of artists to expand your group beyond jewelry artists.

    – Once you gather those founding members, firm up on exactly what the mission of the group is, then decide on some basic rules and how they will be enforced.

    – Choose your admins and decide on a system of rotating them so there is always a start and end to someones time holding that responsibility. This makes it less burdensome for some, and removes that perception of “ownership” because everyone can take a turn at admin if they choose to. Always have more than one admin.

    – Facebook also allows you to track your membership right from the start. You have an instant list of interested people and their profiles when they join your group.

    – Take JMJ up on their offer to spread the word about your new group to their community of jewelry artists, but then approach other thought leaders with different artisan communities and ask them to do the same.

    – Also look within FB to find artists interested in your group.

    From there the next thing I would do would be to set up a Facebook Page where group members could not only show off their work, but also leverage the marketing power of a FB Page to bring in new members AND potential customers.

    Of course, Pinterest can be part of that plan and hey….Don’t forget to keep posting your fabu jewelry pieces here too. Remember, each post here gets two links so artists from your group could, if they choose to, use one of those links to link to the group Page.

    Growing into needing a blog or a website can get a little trickier. Even free sites need someone to be held accountable for the content, and…if you’re discussing medical issues but are not medical professionals you will most certainly need a solid disclaimer statement.

    Forums. Well, they’re monsters to maintain. You need lots of active users to make your forum a place where people want to hang out. Then you need to moderate carefully and often to make sure conversations don’t get abusive or inappropriate. The same applies to a blog with commenting.

    With every step up of growth you need to reevaluate that you step up to the right platform based on the needs of your membership, so never just “put up” a blog or a site, or a forum without a fully thought out plan first.

    And if your admin team is all volunteer you always need a game plan for worst case scenario.

    Now, if you aren’t liking the idea of Facebook (Some people just don’t like it), there is also Yahoo Groups, and Google+. There is also BigTent, which is also free and appears to be super simple to use. ( I don’t have any personal experience with it.)

    These are all free platforms in which you can form groups and use their tools to easily communicate and strategize with each other. They’re also user friendly; and no one is left holding the bag if it doesn’t work out. You simply delete the group. No harm. No foul.

    What Rena posted is worth repeating, “If you start a community – keeping it friendly, keeping the conversations going, helping people feel like they are being heard and valued, and keeping out the junk are what keep folks coming back!”

    I would add that building a community is exciting and fulfilling, but the larger that community becomes, the more it requires hard work and methodical planning to keep it engaging, positive and productive…..and seeming like it’s all effortless. 😉

  31. JoAnne says:

    I made my offer before I found out that my name/site would have to be attached. I don’t think that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, as I check out free blog sites, I came across this. SHe may not makke jewelry, but she is certainly one with us.
    Work the Dream

  32. Well if others are interested I would be willing to start up a facebook group as a first step. Obviously it’s not just up to me so let me know if that is ok and or whether you’d be willing to share any admin duties once I go back to school in Sept.

  33. JoAnne says:

    I am willing to try anything that can get us started.

  34. JoAnne says:

    For those interested in another type of site, also free. One that can be changed to meet our needs. Check out

  35. Hi Everyone,

    Alicia here…..again. 🙂

    First, I want to say Kathy, I apologize for not noting before that I totally love your shell earrings. I love those pressed glass beads too. Beach jewelry is one of my favorite types of jewelry. Also, I’m sorry your post has been a little sidetracked here but it’s for a good cause. 🙂

    I wanted to let you all know that since I recommended BigTent to you I went ahead and checked it out more thoroughly, thinking I might offer set up services to future clients. So…I set it up. I stepped through the process and have created The Physically Challenged Artists Support Group at BigTent.

    My intention was just to test drive this platform for my consultancy and I was rather impressed.

    The group has it’s own mini-forum which makes discussions on different topics much nicer than at Facebook. There is a group calendar. You can create polls and subgroups. You can also have classifieds within the group. They also offer a module that will guide you in how to publicize your group, and a big plus, at least in mind, is a very nice Help section, with a ticket support system. (I used Support and even though they say a response might take up to 3 days I got a reply within 20 minutes.)

    They also have video tuts for some of the admin functions to make it easier to learn how to manage the group, but from what I saw it’s very user friendly.

    All of this comes in the totally free version.

    So…I saw everything I needed to see and was about to delete the group when it occurred to me that if you haven’t yet decided on a platform you might want to go into that group and check it out.

    I created it on it’s own Gmail account so all I have to do is give the “keys”, aka password, to someone – Jenny if you’re still willing to take this on I can start with giving you the groups Gmail account – then make you and one or two other people admins to get it started.

    I, unfortunately, don’t have time to personally take on this project so if no one wants to try BigTent, no harm done. I will just delete the group.

    The Physically Challenged Artists Support Group is not attached to Jewelry Making Journal in any way. Nor is it attached to me or my consultancy in any way. This is just as though you are my clients. Once it’s yours; it’s yours.

    Anyone who wants an invite into that group can just contact me via the JMJ contact form saying you’d like an invite to BigTent, along with your email address and I’ll send you an invite.

    Rena and I put our heads together on this so we’re going to leave this comment here for a week. Hopefully, that will bring enough interested members to get the ball rolling at BigTent with the new Physically Challenged Artists Support Group.

    ** Please do not leave your email addresses in this thread.**

    My fingers are crossed that this takes off. 🙂

    Alicia Rivera
    JMJ Content Specialist

  36. Alicia and Rena,
    You are both incredibly AWESOME!
    From Kathy’s first question to this-wow! How thoughtful and just the way it ought to be….the pieces all falling into place.
    I was worried because I didn’t know which way to go and I felt guilty that I couldn’t do more to get this rolling, (plus I s–k at tech stuff) and Jenny kind of got me thinking what COULD I do and now this, with, it sounds like, a very tech friendly site and the right amount of guidance to get us off the ground.
    Until Kathy brought up her need for help and guidance I didn’t know how much I too needed that. It was like the elephant in the room….I see it but I don’t want to look at it. so to speak. Tears are streaming down my face at all your kindness and input as I sit here typing.
    I would so much like an invite, I’m not ready for the admin part but I can see myself doing that at some point (the big part is that I now can see it and that is huge!).
    Thank you all,
    Diana Redlin

  37. Diana,
    I appreciate your comment very much. Thank you. 🙂

    I got your contact form and am keeping a list of emails. At the end of each day I’ll go into BigTent and send invites.

    Also, anyone who goes to BigTent looking for this group; you won’t find it. Since it was not my intention to keep this group I did not create a public page for it. However, customizing the look of the group as well as building a custom public page can all be done. BigTent provides very nice instructions on exactly how to do all of that.

    Alicia Rivera
    JMJ Content Specialist

  38. Alicia,
    I am absolutely willing to check out BigTent and take on some admin responsiblities as long as a few others are willing to rotate in. I start back full time at Penn State at the end of Aug. and will need relief at times from admin.

    But overall I would be honored to keep this thought going. I have to admit I’ve been soo isolated and lonely that making jewelry has been a savior for me. But the thought of a growing community of others like me that I could form relationships with would be invaluable.

    Alicia, if you want to email me personally with the login info that’d be great.

  39. Diana – thank you for your kind words!

    To all – I hope the Big Tent community setup is a place that will turn into the gathering place you’ve been hoping for – a comfy place where you can go as deep and wide as you feel like.

    And I’m glad we also have a spot here at JMJ for your tips, ideas, and stories that relate to jewelry too! 🙂

    Thanks so much, Alicia, for doing the research and getting the ball rolling!

    (I think you all can see how fortunate I am to have Alicia on my team!) 🙂

  40. I would definitely like an invite! It sounds good. As I stated before, I am willing to take on SOME of the administration duties. This has to be a shared group so there is no pettiness or jealousy on any of the issues that might come up. I can see it being a great site!!!!! Thanks!!!

  41. Kathy?
    What do you think about the idea? You said you have a lot of questions and I’d love to hear more of them. And also what you think now. Are you out there?

    Also a few comments and questions of my own.
    Love to hear what others are thinking specifically about Alicia’s proposal. I hope this is the thread for it. Or should this be in a separate one? I’ll wait to hear back from Rena or Alicia before I go all out.

    I woke up with a smile on my face this morning for the first time in a long while:))

  42. Hey everyone! I am in the process of setting up the BigTent community. IN the meantime you can go to BigTent and sign up to join the group Physically Challenged Support Group. I will get invites out as fast as I can but I wanna make sure I get all the settings finished. But please join us.

  43. Carolyn Angus says:

    What a great beginning! I teach jewelry making classes at the local senior center and also at a local senior apartment complex. I am interested in knowing what and how to teach ladies (and some gentlemen) who have disabilities. Thank you again for such a wonderful group.

  44. Carol FosterHall says:

    Just… Thank you!! I’ve already sent my request in. I’m a jewelry maker with Fibro, degenerative disk disease and severe arthritis in knees & hands. Ugh! But you all are just like me… wanting to find a way to work around the pain & incapabilities. THANK YOU ALL,

  45. Carol did you send your request to the BigTent site or to Alicia

  46. Hi Everyone,
    Coming back to this thread to note this link to the Physically Challenged Artists Support Group invite page:

    Physically Challenged Artists Support Group

    Jenny set up a great little public page where you can go and sign up directly at BigTent.

    Carol, I forwarded you this link in a separate email.

    Good Luck Over There!

    Alicia Rivera
    JMJ Content Specialist

  47. This is a wonderful idea and I have just signed up at Big Tent. I’ve been missing in action for many months, but I do read everything from Rena and LOVE all the splendid changes she has made. My personal life is on a roller-coaster not only from my own disabilities but also having elderly parents half the country away that have needed my attention. I almost, but didn’t have the strength to write something about “When Life has Other Plans…what happens to your jewelry business” Mine resulted in canceling a lot of orders and refunding money……and starting out all over again. I’m hoping with a new vision and more experience.

    One of the thing I know I suffer from is to little “up” time. It’s important for me to get my hands on jewelry making information I need quickly,and I can do it right here at “Renas.” I’m also aware of the isolating effect of being disabled has and feel that the “sister” site may continue the sharing and encouragement that we all find here but also more of the personal complexities we all experience. I am hoping that the 2 sites will have an organic flow back and forth. My mantra has been, “Never, Never, Ever Give Up….but take the time I need”

  48. I really like Maryanne’s mantra. It’s not giving up, it’s just a “pause”.

  49. I have severe skin Lupus and struggle with the use of my hands. I actually find that making jewelry is a form of therapy for me and seems to be the best way I have been able to maintain dexterity. There has been nothing else so far that I have found to have so many varying tasks that work all parts of my finger & hand joints as well as strengthening them. It can be repetitive motion without the severity of residual effects like carpal tunnel syndrome. I would love to be a regular part of a group for us and can contribute time to monitoring, sharing, posting and spreading the word to gain a following to help the group grow and thrive.

  50. Hi Brandi,
    I did something recently that has improved my hand dexterity and made working with all these little parts and pieces much easier. I spent some serious money on tools. It was fun and scary. Would they really work and would they be worth that much money–$25.00-$47.00?

    Well they did work and they are worth that amount of money to me. I got the tools that I mostly work with: a round nose pliers, a chain nose pliers, snips and my favorite, a nylon jaw pliers. And they are so easy to use. The balance and the workmanship on these babies is supremo! I bought from Lindstrom, Xuron, and Wubbers. All purchased at Lima Beads.

    I really did some research on these companies and the prices and found that Lima had the ones that I wanted. Hope you join us at bigtent too!

  51. OH MY! I’m overwhelmed by so many voices out there! Thanks so much for the wonderful compliments on my designs, you’re all very kind =D

    I had checked back a few times to see if anybody had responded to my question and there was nothing. Something told me to go check it out today and I am blown away.

    Rena, sweetheart that you are, thanks so much for making this part of your website, this is awesome!

    Now that I have seen how many people are here and struggle with disabilities daily, I’ll stop by frequently! Wow! xo Kathy

  52. Hi me again =P

    I’m trying to catch up with all the posts! I would love to join the big tent!!!
    How do I go about doing that?

    I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you!

    Gentle Hugs,

  53. Hi Everyone!
    I just signed up for Big Tent. It will take me time to catch up, but I will get there!

    BIG Gentle Hugs,

  54. This sounds exciting, I just signed up also. I don’t have a lot of free time right now, but I can help a little.
    Aloha and Blessings to you all

  55. This sounds wonderful. I started making jewelry seriously after I had a stroke to help me regain use of my left hand. Don’t know where I would be without support of friends and loved ones. It will be good to be able to share and encourage each other. Thanks for this exciting new site! Maxine

  56. Lynne Clark says:

    This is a FANTASTIC thread. I just happened upon it from Rena’s page and I am GLAD I did. I have arthritis, fibro, sleep apnia, and clinical depression. I love making jewelry and giving it away, tho I have sold some. The last 2 necklace and earring sets I gave away was to the technician that came to set up my sleep apnia machine! 😉

    I want to make more and get a website going. I just signed up with bigtent and look forward to following and commenting often.

    God Bless Kathy for having the courage to ask the questions that started this thread and bigtent. And Alicia for setting it up. As well as all of you for posting such support and helps.

  57. Pegi Gibson says:

    I have enjoyed reading what everyone here has said. I also am disabled. I have arthritis, fibro, trigeminal neuralgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, IBS, GERD, and depression. I marveled at Beajae’s 10 operations. My doctor wants to start with 5 operations but I thought this too many for me.

    I have a wonderful husband, Steve who always goes with me to shows, sets up and takes down the tent, helps with setting up everything else, is the official money taker. I make wire and PMC jewelry and Steve even makes some beautiful chainmaille jewelry. We did this just the 2 of us for 8/9 years.

    Recently I have 2 partners (Kim and Karen) who can help with the parts of shows that I have problems with, like tent set up (we use 2). We have been best friends for more than 30 years. Kim makes woven jewelry and Karen makes pottery. While it hasn’t always been easy making all of this work, we really do “work” at it and are also having fun.

    We share the business side of art also, which means I have much less to do that way also and get to spend more time creating. Karen is the money person. She backs Steve up taking money at shows, handles the checkbook, takes care of sales tax as well as end of year taxes for each of us, insurance, and all things credit cards. Kim takes care of the official books, pictures and logo for jury and our soon-to-be website, consignment at shops and/or galleries, our official scrapbook, and copywrite-type things. I handle shows, pricing, inventory for Kim and I, the website, and appraisal. Karen does her own inventory.

    Most important, we support each other physically, mentally, and emotionally. We each have a studio in our own home and Karen has a large studio space we share every Thursday and Sunday, and some Tuesdays. That gives each of us an added push.

    I am thrilled to have stumbled on this conversation. I just joined BigTent before coming here. Maybe will see some of you there.

  58. We are almost up to 20 members on BigTent with 5 admins helping out! I’m forever greatful to Rena for this topic/thread because without it we never would’ve had the idea for our BigTent group develop. SO come join us now at

  59. Jenny, thank you so much for this update. I’m SO happy to hear that your lovely gathering place is growing and flourishing. And so honored to have a small part in everyone coming together.

    Also a HUGE thanks to Alicia for setting up the BigTent group and getting it rolling! 🙂

  60. Hello Ladies. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get to the end of this post. LOL Such an overwelming amount of replies to Kathy’s question. I too have fibro, arthrits, neuropathy, disk disease and depression. I have had to cancel on show I was in and I never want to do that again. I have an amazing husband who goes to every show and sets up, makes food runs and loads the car back up. I have my sister who helps me and she is also disabled. I use a walker so It can be hard at times. I do feel proud to be among you amazing women who just push through and don’t give up. I haven’t gone to the Big Tent site but I’m heading that way now. Thank you all for sharing and being a support for me and all the other ladies. Take care and have a wonderful weekend.

  61. Wow! I’m so happy so many people have been brought together! I don’t feel so lost any longer. Thanks to all the hard working ladies that set up our group! What a awesome place to share and not be judged by “the Normals”

    See you all on big tent? I hope so!

    Gentle Hugs, Kathy xo

  62. Maritza Schwindt says:

    Dear All,
    I am new to all of this, but this morning I found out about Rena and then Diana , Joanne Linda, Kathy, Alicia and the names go on and on. I too have Fibromyalgia and some back ailments, but I still wish to be a part of The Big Tent group and learn how to more help the Developmentally Disabled groups.I am not too smart how this all works as far as computer language goes (terms, etc) but I can still learn. Help me to help us help one another. Please count me in.

  63. Hi Maritza!
    So happy you found us! Rena is awesome for getting this great group started!
    We are still a fledgling group learning to use our wings. There is a great group of people there. Looking forward to getting to know you =)

    Gentle Hugs, Kathy

  64. Welcome, Maritza!

    If you haven’t yet found the location for the BigTent group, here is the signup page:

    I’m so pleased that this flock of kindred spirit artists who first found each other here at JMJ are enjoying the private BigTent gathering so much! 🙂

  65. Hi Maritza,
    Welcome and I hope you will go to bigtent. You can put photos up of you work and tell about us about your life if you like. I’ve had fibro for about 8 years and I need all the help I can get!
    🙂 Diana Redlin

  66. Siggi Confer says:

    Hello Rena, and fellow jewelry-Artists!
    Kathy, Of Lilac Moon Jewelry, I am totally with you! I suffer from Arachnoiditis, a chronic, very, very painful spinal condition without cure. Also from severe degenerative Arthritis, Heart, and Lung problems.

    So running all over town, asking Store owners if I could display my handmade jewelry, is out of the question, as is going to craft sales. My husband and I set up at a outdoor craft-show earlier this year, I could not get out of bed for several days after that. My husband totally refuses to take me to any more shows, and I can’t do it on my own.

    I tried having shows in my home, the last one, in two weekends three people showed up. I must say, I only know the people in my church, as I don’t go out, except to doctors appointments, etc. The church people were very good buying my jewelry, but they can only use so much, especially as most of them are older, and have a life-time worth of jewelry already.

    I might add that I have no family here, and have moved into the area.

    Does anyone have any tips on finding new customers? How to go about to get new customers? Especially, since I main do my Jewelry Business for friends in Kenya, who have about 40 orphan, or foundling children, and need all the help they can get. There are times our friends do not eat, because there is only enough for the children. I send, and have been sending 50 % of all my sales to them. So it is especially important to me to make sales, if I could only figure out how to find new customers…

    Being shy on top of that, does not help either.
    Is there any hope for me?

  67. Hi Siggi,
    Absolutely there is hope for you!
    The internet is the great equalizer. Take real good photos of your things.
    Find a site where you can list for free. Many only charge you if you sell something. Etsy charges $0.20 per listing per three months and then a 3.5% commission if you sell, for example. There are lots of handmade sites up now and it gets easier and easier as you go along.
    Everyone here will probably have more ideas as they read your post.
    You could also find some really helpful people at the Physically Challenged Artists Suppot Group on
    Wishing you the best,

  68. Tricia says:

    Hi Kathy. Love your jewelry. I also suffer from fibromyalgia. I make more jewelry and have not sole any because of my Fibromyalgia, along with Spinal Stenosis and Degenerative Disc Disease. It is hard to pack up and drag all of my materials to different shows. I need help to set up and clean up, and it is hard to find people that are willing to help you. I can’t stand for long periods of time, I can’t walk even a block long. It is hard for me after a show, and I have no energy the next day. I will continue to make my jewelry and maybe one day, I will have large sale and sell the majority of my precious jewelry. Hang in there, you are not alone.

  69. Just curious. Do any of you filed for a tax ID? I am disabled and worried I might lose my benefits if I do. I don’t make much per month. Is it worth it?

  70. Deborah Blake says:

    Making jewelry has literally kept me alive. I have RA and lupus. But the anxiety and depression has got the best of me from time to time. As I thought of suicide often my daughter set up a craft room in my house. I spend time in there daily. I do deal with pain and losing my eyesight, but yet I enjoy it on my good days. I tried my first festival in May. I had panic attacks but tried to stay there. I was worn out for days after but feel I made strides in my mission to become social again. My booth however just barely made the space cost. It’s depressing to see my talent was not wanted. I just basically string beads however. My RA doesn’t allow me anything fancy. I re purpose jewelry, my disability check doesn’t go far. I’ve used up my grandmother’s jewelry and a few my son picked up at yard sells. Guess I shouldn’t post when depressed huh? Does anyone know of a place I can order used jewelry I can purchase rather than only buying at the stores?

  71. Hi my name is carla and i like many of you also have alot of health issues. With one involving fibro, copd, heart attack a stroke neck spine ruptured disk. And Neuropathy and tos. All started when. My mother died and i got shingles and i’m know 52 sleep my life away, live on pain meds like morphine just to keep it at a 5. Then a amazing thing happened i started. Doing jewlery found your site and seen that i’m not alone that there are alot of women going thru the same as me and i want to be a part of your group and maybe be able to help someone else out thier that it’s ok when we don’t feel good sleep all day cause we. Over done it the day before or we are always in a brain fog. That we might do all those thing but we can still create have fun make dear and lasting friend ships and be most of all a imperation to each other please exscuse my spelling and sentence structure never been my strong suit lol. Thank you carla :).

  72. I also have Fibro and an arthritic spine. I had to give up going to market chipping away until I was there only one day a week. I simply can’t physically do it anymore. My biggest problem is taking the photos I need for Etsy and facebook! I think I need to set up a way to take pix sitting down, but the lighting, tripod, and all the draping and busts, well it’s VERY painful on my back! I’m lucky that we have purchased a shop/studio/home in a tiny town, but that is going to be brutal to get cleaned up and fitted out. At least I won’t need to pack up and set up daily! But I also understand that most of my sales will have to be online and that means photos. While I am horrible at taking the pix I’m fairly good at editing. I’ve had 3 other Etsy shops fail miserably and I am determined to make this one work! Any hints or help with photography will be a blessing to me! And for all my fellow Fibro sufferers, Google and read THE SPOON THEORY! It helps you understand and explain to others what you are going through. Cheers everyone, nice to not feel so alone!

  73. Hi Pam! If you haven’t already seen it, here is a big collection of jewelry photography tips and tricks here at Jewelry Making Journal: Photographing Jewelry. I hope this helps – and I wish you every joy and success with your new jewelry business adventure! 🙂

  74. I feel the pain of all those who have posted here. 7 years ago I was in an auto accident and my brain got banged around some. I now have memory connection problems. I started my etsy shop in October of this year and am still struggling. Haven’t had a sale yet. Other Esty member have said it was picture, or SEO tags. I am still working on these issues, along with creating my jewelry. I haven’t been able to do shows. And there are no shops in our town that would sell jewelry on consignment. I also would like to join a group that would and could incourage. It is very hard when your brain doesn’t work. I make me think my work isn’t nice or good enough to sell.

  75. So happy to have found this site! So hard to know when you’ll be able to create with the FM and CFS. Can’t wait to read all the comments!

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