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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Artisan Jewelry Components versus Mass-Produced Imports

So, here’s what I was going to talk about (several weeks ago) on the subject of artisan components…

There are so many things that are… how shall I say this?... mass-produced?... that we, creative types, can start to feel overwhelmed at the idea of “competing” with what gets shipped in from China (for example) at a price that is a fraction what we would have to charge for the same thing just to break even.

So… if we want to cover our materials’ costs and our overhead (listing fees, kiln use costs, etc) and get some kind of profit or deserving hourly wage… well, we have to do something so we’re NOT competing with the things that are being mass-produced.

Now, you can look at that two ways. One, you can try to stay at the complete cutting edge and/or front of the pack in your creations, setting the trends rather than following them. But most don’t find that easy or even possible to do. In which case we have option two… which is to still make what you make, regardless of if it looks peripherally like the mass-produced imports, and do your best to attract the type of clientele that cares about the differences between SRA (self-representing artisan) made items versus inferior quality, but similar-looking items.

I say “similar-looking” and “looks peripherally like” because if you are a given distance from item A and item B, they may look identical. But once you are close enough, you can see many differences. And those are just the physically obvious differences. There are also things that would/might make your item LAST longer than the other item or wear more comfortably than the other item, etc.

Anyway, the point is that if you want to be in and stay in this business, you have to believe in what you do. You have to decide that you are not competing with the mass-produced imports.

If you ARE making the same things that are being imported en masse, then you are fighting an uphill battle because unless you can live off of a dollar a day you’ll never survive.

If you AREN’T making the same things that are being shipped here daily, then you’ve got to make sure your customers know this.

Tell them how you make your items, what differentiates yours from what they see at WalMart or Target.

If they care, they will buy your items regardless of how much more they cost than the drug store items. If they don’t care, you didn’t have a chance with them anyway. You can’t undercut the import market, so don’t try.

Here, now, are examples of people/shops that decided not to compete with mass-produced imports.

Anne Choi makes beautiful and original bead components by coming up with a design, making a mold of that design, and casting the item in sterling silver in limited editions.

Considering what goes into each piece and how unique it is, I think the prices are quite reasonable.

Please click here to go to her website for more amazing creations.

Another site I’d like to share with you is HandFast Designs.

The third one I’d like to show you is Pacific Silverworks.

It’s not just jewelry, either. Nor is it anything recent.

Look at the difference between Ikea and a place like The Joinery or Northwest Fine Woodworking. There are times when Ikea meets your needs and a time when only a quality, handcrafted woodworking shop meets your needs.

How about handcrafted soap? Sometimes a bar of Ivory is what’s needed… and sometimes seeking out a maker of handcrafted soap is the only way to go.

It is in practically every industry and it’s nothing new… any time anything is created, others try to find ways to make that item cheaper and faster. Luckily for artisans, we don’t all way things made in a cheaper and faster fashion.

I hope maybe something I wrote here has inspired even one person to take a deep breath and say, “That’s right; I’m not in competition with mass-produced imports. The people who I attract as buyers WANT quality and will pay the difference to get it. It’s okay that there are people who want $2 beads for their Pandora bracelets, but there are also people who don’t want those cheap beads. So those are the ones I will target. I will make what I want with love and care and the customers will find me because they WANT quality and originality.”

Okay, gonna jump off the soapbox now. Have a good one!

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