Profiting from Jewelry That’s Time Consuming to Make

by Rena Klingenberg.

Profiting from Jewelry That's Time Consuming to Make, by Rena Klingenberg - Jewelry Making Journal

What if your jewelry is very time consuming to make – so it’s difficult to price it high enough to compensate you for all the hours you put into it?

For example, artists who create with seed beads often face this issue.

It can take a long time to make a jewelry item with bead weaving or other techniques that involve seed beads.

And although people may love your creations, they may not be willing to pay for all the many hours that went into creating those pieces.

In the solutions below, I’m going to stick with our example of seed bead artistry – but these tips can apply to other forms of jewelry making too.

5 Ideas for Profiting from
Time Consuming Jewelry Artistry:

  1. Make small works of art (such as a 1” or 2” piece), and put them in jewelry frames to be worn as pendants, brooches, charm bracelets, etc. Small pieces will take less time to create, and framing them gives the impression of a “masterpiece”.
  2. Create a natural path to your higher priced items. If you do make smaller, lower priced pieces (as mentioned above), think of them as a “starter” product line for customers to experience and own your art. These starter sales can lead your returning customers to purchase your higher priced, more time consuming pieces later.
  3. Create your own patterns and sell them. There are some nifty software programs that can help you turn your own design ideas into seed-bead patterns. And seed-beaders are always on the lookout for an exciting new pattern.
  4. Create commissioned seed bead artworks to commemorate people’s life milestones or sentimental occasions. For example – births, weddings, anniversaries, sweet sixteen birthdays, a family tree chart, etc. Your works may be wearable – or they may be more along the lines of small framed wall art or another type of ornament. People are often willing to spend more on keepsakes related to milestones or sentimental occasions.
  5. Teach other people how to create jewelry and other items with seed beads. There are always people who would love to learn a handmade art from your skills and experiences.

Also Important –
Educate Your Public

Help people understand what’s involved in designing and creating one of your pieces.

Show photos, a slideshow, or video of you working on one of your seed bead creations.

Discuss how much time went into each step of the piece in your demonstration.

Most people have no idea of what it takes (and how long it takes) to create one of these pieces.

And after seeing what’s involved, people are much more likely to appreciate and value the pieces you create.

What are your experiences with profiting (or not profiting) from jewelry that’s time-consuming to make?

Older Comments:

Helen says:

Thanks for this timely post Rena. I don’t work with seed beads (too small and fiddly) but with polymer clay and the more complicated the cane and technique the longer it takes, plus often a lot of sanding,polishing and/or varnishing is involved and I also assemble my own chains, so you do rack up the hours.I tend to make pendants (easier to carry and display) and try and aim to not go over the £30 mark when pricing up – though I have more elaborate designs in my head I want to create.It is really tricky – so I might actually dedicate a blog post to my latest range to explain how many hours went into those pieces. I actually have sold a few pendants of my dichroic range and actually increased the price slightly as it was still nowhere near what they should cost and it didn’t deter customers. If someone really appreciates and wants a piece of wearable art then they are prepared to pay for it.

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Rena Klingenberg says:

Thank you all for sharing your experiences and insights. It’s interesting to hear the ways you’ve developed to connect with customers and help them understand the time and artistry that go into your creations. Fantastic advice from each of you! 🙂

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Bobbie says:

Rena, you’re absolutely right about educating the customer. I am a beadweaver, and customers at shows would sometimes be surprised at the prices. Several years ago, I made a sign that lives front and center in my display — it describes the beadweaving process, and explains that most of the pieces they see took anywhere from 2 to 100+ hours to create. It was like the clouds parted and the sun shone through — just that little bit of explanation has resulted in much greater understanding among my customers and easier sales. It is also important to position yourself at higher-end shows and galleries with this type of work. Flea markets and lower-cost craft shows are not going to attract the type of customer willing to pay appropriately for your more time-intensive work.

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Dianne says:

I agree with these ideas and know that they work. I have been creating Peyote Stitch Bracelets and selling the patterns (which has been very successful!) means I can lower the price on the bracelets themselves and still get paid for my time. Teaching is a really fun way to pass on what you know and make some money in the meantime. Since the economy has taken a dive, women are learning how to make their own accessories more now than every before!
Kits are another way you can make a profit on your seed bead creations. Putting together everything one would need to create the pattern, including the printed pattern and tutorial sidelines make is easy for someone who wants to learn but for some reason does not want, or cannot make it, to a class. I even put in the thread and needle.

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Sheila Davis says:

I agree also with what had been said. I am a beadweaver…mostly freeform. I think sometimes it takes time for the right customer to come along too. I can’t expect to get paid an hourly wage for my beadwork like I do my lampwork beads. I have heard the term “labor of love” referring to beadwork…and I do love it!

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Rose says:

I agree, it is a labor of Love!

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Felicia says:

Oh I sometimes want to shake people when they pick up a piece that took so much time and effort for me to create and then make a face because the price is “too high.” (actually most of my pieces are under $50) I would love a sign that educates them on the process but the problem is I do waaaaayyy too many different techniques, my sign would be more like a book! I think that is a big problem with a lot of mixed media artists. People see a piece of jewelry and they think we just bought the components and put them together, they have no concept of how we can literally make EVERYTHING that goes into that one necklace or bracelet. It can be very frustrating as an artist. So thank you for posting this!

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Sandy Kane says:

Loved this post and comments. I’m a bead weaver too. It’s a passion and obsession now. Right before bed I read beading books and magazines! ????
Pricing is the hardest thing for me. Sometimes I make pieces and don’t even WANT to sell them, I love them so. At a few craft shows I’ve brought my beading tray and supplies and worked on pieces. People are curious and love to see how things are made. I think this helps them understand, and also gives us a way to converse, and they see how much I love my beading. I love to spread the bead love! ♥ Maybe this idea will help others.

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Carolyn Foster says:

I started beadweaving on the death side of 60 and am now 75 and it has become an
obsession with me. I do free form, as I can’t read and bead at the same time and I do
like to be different. I do high end shows and sell from $50 to $450 and the folks
who buy my designs always say they can see how much time went into it. So I think “quality work” usually gets a “quality price”.

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Jeanne Steck – Gems By Jeanne Marie says:

Thanks for this great post, Rena. I create sterling silver chains with individually wrapped beads. Many times clients think it is the sterling silver that accounts for cost, but in reality it is the time. I’m working on educating my public.

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Katie say:

@Felicia’s comment “I would love a sign that educates them on the process but the problem is I do waaaaayyy too many different techniques, my sign would be more like a book!”

I would suggest making one for each technique and spreading them out through out your booth or pick witch one you want to display for that day.

Back in high school (6 years ago), my dad lived above a shop that sold artists’ art / crafts and I had some basic stuff being sold there and when the town’s art show came around she asked me to do some beading at the booth so that people would see how stuff is made. she had some other mediums working on their stuff too. I love when artists are working on their art at art shows ^.^

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Betty Torma say:

Hi: I, too, love beadweaving, but I rarely do it any more as I cannot sell it for the price I should get and because, in my area, customers seem to want more metal than beadwork. I make memory wire bracelets and then add lots of coordinating beads dropping from the wire. Even these are sometimes hard to sell. I agree, it’s not so much the cost of the material as the time we put into this. I will continue to do beadweaving, but mostly for me to wear. This is a great post. Thanks

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Anita Campbell say:

I agree that educating the public is important about how long it takes to create an item and actually work on something at the craft show so they can see (if they really want to see) what beaded Kumihimo process looks like. That being said, putting a price on the item is still difficult and getting someone willing to buy at that price point may be beyond difficult. For me, I “think” the solution is to get into juried shows that have a good reputation bringing in the public AND be in an area where people have, in theory, more discretionary money to spend. Although that’s not a guarantee to sales either.

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Cathy Stewart say;

Hi Rena, I always enjoy reading your journal and checking out your new ideas. Inspiring and I like the way you are always kind and generous. Thank you. Cathy

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Rena Klingenberg say:

Thank you, Cathy, that’s so lovely to hear! 🙂

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Shirley Gruen says:

Hi Rena,
This has been such a good education for me and I am grateful that you can share your experience and knowledge. My business started as a keepsake one, hence the name “Your Family Jewels”. So, people bring me all kinds of things to repurpose for wall hangings and mostly jewelry. There is extra time involved in picking through all the stuff. Sometimes suitcases full and trying to repair as much as possible. I do have the client sign a contract and explain that there is always a possibility that damage can occur to some pieces. I try to stay away from real jewels, unless it is something easy, like putting a pendant on a chain. I find most of my customers are so happy with the result that they don’t question the cost. I feel that it is important let them know on the front end that I can’t determine what the cost would be until I get finished. I’ve never had anyone unhappy. If something happens, I am always willing to make repairs. Ialso work with vintage jewelry for outright sales. Most of my components are usually expensive although I have a couple of good sources, who make me fair prices. I also have established a relationship with a bead store and they give me a wholesale price on everything I buy there. It is still difficult to price my pieces. I only do one of a kind and a lot of my work is experimentation. A lot of work and time goes into most of my work. I just had an example of this recently . I made my daughter a mesh silver bracelet with a lovely gem of some sort at the enclosure. Several of the women she works with wanted to order ones just like it. I did not have anymore of that particular wire mesh and spent a lot of time looking for it and experimenting with other wire to get it to have the same quality. My daughter had given them a price that I suggested to her. Fine, except by the time I got through with the bracelets they were worth much more. I felt that it was the right thing to honor the agreed price, but I definitely lost money. I do feel that if they are happy with the result, as they were, it is very good marketing. When I have shows there in the future, I’m sure they will attend. I do shows at home and in other cities where I have a relative or friend host one. There is a traveling cost that I have to figure into the formula. In addition, I only place my pieces in antique and consignment businesses that only do their business by the consignment basis, but their splits are very good. I pay a very minimal price up front or monthly and the split is usually 90/10 or 80/20. Retail just doesn’t work for me. I like this way and if I’m having a show, I just collect my things from these stores and put back whatever is left over. How do I insure that the store is taking proper care of my jewelry. Those stories were scary, where their things were damaged. I guess I could have a contract with them also, addressing that issue Any other suggestions?

Thank you so much for the formula and I look forward to following you.
Shirley Gruen

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Brittany Witt says:

Thank you for this post Rena! I’m a micro macrame artist who uses 100% organic hemp fiber. I do a lot of crystal cabochon wrapping making pendants headpieces, armbands, ect. Macrame is still that “lost art” so I don’t have that much of a market on top of pricing it high in order to get what I put into it.

I used to make more elaborate jewelry pieces that took hours, I noticed they were more like things you’d hang on your wall! So I have since started making smaller pieces.

I think I’ll have to take these ladies advice on educating, creating tutorials & selling kits for people to buy & make their own.

Thanks!
– Brittany

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Rena Klingenberg says:

You’re very welcome, Brittany! I wish you every success with your new directions. 🙂

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JoAnne St James says:

What exactly is a jewelry frame?

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Rena Klingenberg says:

Hi JoAnne, thanks for asking! I should have been more clear about that.

If you do an online search for “pendant frames” you’ll find a variety of jewelry components that are photo frames, bezels, etc. that you can put all sorts of artwork into.

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Molly Jaber says:

I love everyones great ideas…I just have a couple of things to add.
1. When you are making art, treat it like art. Put that beautiful necklace by itself on a frame display, maybe with matching earrings and make it look important.
2. It’s important, no matter what you make , to be “on trend”. Wether it’s an old technique using the hottest new color, design, or theme.
3. I love the idea that some of you are selling your art as wall hangings or other non jewelry items too…not everything looks good on the body, some looks much more appealing hanging on the wall, as a lovely bookmark etc.

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Barbara L says:

I do foldforming and metalsmithing. The metal is an expense, and creating the objects takes time. They have to be annealed, cooled, formed, colored if desired, burnished and filed. Most of what I do is my own work, including clasps. I do use purchased jump rings as they are stronger than I would make. I work more slowly than most and accept that I’ll have to bill for only a part of my time as I’ve never cultivated a “time is money” attitude. My style is classic and not “on trend” although I may be on trend unknowingly. Good taste is timeless, and I’ve found that trendiness has never been an issue.
What is an issue is that even if I adjust my time downward people think the jewelry is expensive. It’s mostly copper with some sterling. There is glass and crystal. This year I decided to exclusively use Swarovski crystals and sterling for earwires and clasps. I’ve also starting using semi-precious gemstones.
Therefore, my work will gradually cost more because I spend more on the materials. I’m going to have to find shows and clients who will buy the “new me”. I enjoy the new material and believe my work shows it. I looked at my student work a few hours ago and had a few “yikes!!!” moments! It’s good to look back and realize that you really have grown. It also shows how supportive and kind people were.

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Angie says:

I recently found your blog in a Google search and I couldn’t be happier. I’m relatively new at jewelry designing and have learned as I’ve gone along (thankfully, I’m pretty crafty and have years of that experience to boost my talent in this area). However, things such a pricing jewelry and other neat little time-saving tips or unique techniques that you share on your site have been a wonderful addition to my knowledge base. Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into your website. I’m loving and appreciating it…and yes, I’ve signed up for your newsletter. =o) Have a great weekend!

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