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Monday, January 11th 2010

3:27 PM

How to Survive the Economy


Hello Everyone!


As I was sitting here trying to think of today’s blog topic my thoughts started drifting to the news. It seems like everyday we hear about how bad the economy is. If the economy improves .001 percent it becomes front page news. I then began thinking about my own situation. I thought about changes that we could make in the next few months that will propel us forward for 2010. Here are a few of my thoughts.

As an artist, it’s important to have the things needed to create our art. In a bad economy where things are tight we have to spend more time planning out how we’ll use materials with as little waste as possible. That means creating a budget. Take a little time and look at your sales from the past year (I know, I know it’s heartbreaking to look at. But trust me it will get better). Calculate how many of each jewelry type that you sold. Look at the price that you sold it for and the cost it took to create the piece. Also look at the inventory that you still have on hand. Finally, look at the shows that you have scheduled for the coming season. Using this information figure out the amount of materials you’ll need to purchase for each show. Doing this will give you a better idea as to how much it is going to cost you to produce pieces for your upcoming shows. This will help you build a budget that you can survive with.

Along with the above calculation, try and figure out how much inventory that you would like to have for each show. Keep in mind that some shows might require that you need a little more than others.

Another way to survive through this economy is to downsize. Looking at various shows throughout the years I’ve noticed that many booths are filled with hundreds of pieces. The idea is to provide a huge variety of pieces that will appeal to a large audience. In past years that may have been a good approach, however in our current economic situation this approach might work. Consider cutting down your inventory for this next show season. Less inventory means less expense in materials. This could help you survive this economic downturn.

A few words of caution when downsizing your inventory. Avoid falling into the trap of using “cheap”, inferior grade materials in your work. Think about it, do you really want to build a reputation of being an artist who makes junk jewelry and tries to pass it off as high end pieces? Of course you don’t.  You’d end up losing a lot more customers than it’s worth. Another caution is to not supplement your handmade inventory with cheap pieces that you purchased from an overseas supplier. This approach could kill any sales that you may have hoped for. Remember, people are buying your work because it is a unique and handmade. They can purchase mass produced jewelry from Wal-Mart.

In past years I used to offer a lot of pieces in gold filled. When the price of gold began to rise I quit creating work that featured this precious metal. Today, the price of gold is still on the rise. Because of this many artists have begun to work with other metals like Argentium Sterling Silver, Sterling Silver, Copper, and Brass. There’s nothing wrong with this approach. Actually it’s a great way to create jewelry with a fresh look. But this doesn’t mean that we have to abandon using gold. Why not consider using gold filled wire as an accent. One thing I like to do is use 21 gauge half round gold filled wire for my wraps. Announce of 21 gauge half round gold filled wire will go a line way. This makes adding a touch of gold to a piece a lot more economical. Plus, gold and silver look wonderful together. In this weak economy many of your customers may appreciate the opportunity to own pieces of your work that sport a bi-metal look.

Something else you may want to consider is shows that are closer to home. Many of us have to travel many hours away from our home to get to regional art shows that attract a lot of art customers. However, you may have noticed that many of these shows haven’t been attracting the numbers that they once did. Does it seem reasonable to put out hundreds of dollars for booth space fees, hotel, gas, and food to do a big regional show that has low numbers? Why not plan to do a few regional art shows and supplement the rest of your schedule with smaller shows near your home. You’ll save on booth space fees, hotel fees, and car gas.

The last thing that you might want to consider is diversify. If you are a bead artist, diversify your work by learning to create wire wrapped jewelry (http://www.macjewels.com). If you are a wire artist consider learning to create wiresmithed jewelry (http://www.wiresmithing.com). By offering your customers new and interesting works of art you’ll capture their attention and hopefully pry the last remaining dollar that they have in their tightly clinched fist.  

You may have heard people say that the only living thing that will survive a nuclear war are cockroaches. Ever wonder why they say that? Cockroaches are very resilient. That’s what each and every one of us artists need to be. Now I’m not calling anyone a cockroach. I just want you to understand how to survive this economy. We need to look at this as an opportunity to come out on top of the art world. Think of all of the artists who are putting their craft aside and or even leaving it behind. Their absence gives the rest of us the opportunity to step in and fill their place. When the economy improves, we’ll be the ones who survive.

These are just some of my thoughts. I hope they help.

‘til next time,

Jim McIntosh


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