Sunday, January 29, 2012

My name is Pam, and I'm a Beadaholic

I thought it might be possible, but now I know for sure. I spent one and a half days "camped out" at my local bead shop while they had a sale on gemstones. After bringing home 2 completely stuffed bags of stones the first day, I felt compelled to go back the next. It's not that I need these, I have enough stones and beads to keep me busy for a long, long time. So, what is it? How does a person know that they are a beadaholic?

For starters, when a trip to the bead store results in something that looks like this:

In this photo, there are over  125 strands of gemstones!  

Despite the obvious evidence, I wasn't quite ready to admit to being a full blown beadaholic. I did a little soul searching and asked myself these questions:

1. Do you buy beads specifically for a project?
    a) never  b) sometimes  c) always 

2. Do you enjoy "the thrill of the hunt" for beads?
    a) always  b) sometimes  c) never

3. Do you use the beads on hand before buying more?
    a) never  b) sometimes  c) always

4. Do you plan to use all of the beads you have on hand?
  a) it's not possible   b) I'll try  c) absolutely

5. Do you talk to your beads?
  a) doesn't everyone?  b) sometimes  c) absolutely not!

Scoring: 3 points for each a) answer, 2 for each b) and 1 for each c).

11-15 points, you are definitely a beadaholic!
6-10 points, you are a casual beader, in danger of becoming a beadaholic
5-9 points, you are probably a beginner, or don't have access to beads

So, how did YOU do??????

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Branding Your Handcrafted Product Part 2 Marketing Your Brand

Hematite Necklace with Upcycled Diamond Heart Pendant

Discovering your brand won't happen overnight. You'll start to realize what it is when the creations that excite you develop a pattern. There are certain things I love working on, and when they are finished, I'm proud of them. I can look at the design and say, "That's me."

I found this Hematite pendant on a boring necklace with Hematite beads, all the same size. Even though Rose Quartz looks awesome with Hematite, I wanted to repurpose the pendant by accenting it with something a little more unusual.

I'm happy with the finished product, but repurposing is a little different than creating from "scratch."

When I made this design I was excited from start to finish. The Lace Agate focal appealled to me, and so did the honeysuckle Quartz. When I found the lampwork beads that brought the 2 colors together, I was ecstatic.

So, my brand is "free-spirited, bold, unusual and funky." What do I do now?

Your product tells a story about the person who created it and what inspired you. Tell the story in your item description. Why? It creates a connection between you and the customer.

Your business name should provide a glimpse of what someone will find in your store. When I say that, I don't mean a bland "Sally's Soaps" type of name. Think about not only what a customer will think of when they hear your name, but how they will feel. "Sally's Sensual Soaps" invokes a feeling. See the difference? If you have already established your business name, consider adding a tag line. "Sally's Soaps" where every bath is a trip to the spa. Whenever a customer hears the name "Sally's Soaps", the word "spa" will come to mind. When someone hears epicetera I want them to think "free-spirited, uninhibited, bold".

Is there a market for your product? Who knows? If there's not, it's up to you to create one. This holds true whether you paint, create items from wood, or crochet potholders. You can create a need for your product by knowing your brand and selling in the right place. For instance, what excites you when you are working with wood? Is it the natural beauty of the grain? When you crochet a potholder, are you excited about seeing the finished product, and hope that it will create that "homespun" feel to a customer's kitchen?

Marketing Your Brand
1. Think about who your potential customers are more likely to be. Someone who prefers delicate, fine jewelry is not going to get excited about my designs, and I'm not going to try to convert them. My target audience is more likely to be women between the ages of 21 and 45, working in some type of creative field (like interior design) or marketing field (selling real estate).

2. Show what's special about your brand.   What makes a Cadillac different from a Ford Pick-Up? Each are different and have qualities that appeal to different people. It doesn't mean one is better than the other, it's more like "different strokes for different folks." But both Cadillac and Ford know their brand, what the unique qualities are, and who their target market is. My jewelry is more likely to appeal to someone who loves natural gemstones (as opposed to someone who prefers polished, faceted stones) and loves to express their individuality (an extrovert as opposed to an introvert.)

Knowing this about your product and a potential customer will allow you to create a connection by creating a need to express themselves. Think of it this way, I'm sure you've seen commercials for Dodge Ram trucks. Dodge has figured out who that potential customer is likely to be and came out with "Ram Tough" commercials. The customer wants to be portrayed just like the guy in the commercial. The commercial invoked feeling.

3. Envision your potential customer with your product. What are they doing? What are they feeling? When they purchase your bath salts, do you picture them totally relaxed, enjoying the fragrance of the bath? Do you picture the young mother using your crocheted potholders to remove her freshly baked cookies from the oven? I picture one of my customers having lunch with friends at an outdoor cafe on a sunny day. Everyone is laughing, enjoying the conversation. When they are finished with lunch, they are going to a local art gallery. Oh wow.....someone noticed how much fun my customer was having and approached her to find out where she got her necklace.....................Happy selling!!!!

Glass Beads and Baubles: Techniques Used to Make Them

The oldest and most common synthetic materials used for bead making are ceramics: pottery and glass. Many types of glass are used, and the end results vary with the manufacturing process. Most glass beads are pressed glass, mass-produced by preparing a molten batch of glass of the desired color and pouring it into molds to form the desired shape. Coating the beads with special metallic chemical coatings, such as Aurora Borealis, or "AB", gives the surface a rainbow appearance.
 Pressed glass beads (matte finish with an AB coating) 

Chunky Lead Crystal Ice Choker Necklace with Fire Polish Czech Glass
Fire polished Lead Crystal Chunky Choker by 
"Fire-polished" faceted beads are a less expensive alternative to hand-cut faceted glass or crystal. They are made in the Czech Republic, and have at least one facet on them.  These glass beads are pressed in a mold, then machine faceted and polished. The fire-polishing technique produces a scratch-resistant bead with slightly rounded facets. Czech glass beads have been made in the Czech Republic since the 14th century and have an excellent reputation for workmanship and quality. 

Red Swarovski Crystal and Silver 3-Strand Bracelet
Red Swarovski Crystal and Silver 3-Strand Bracelet   by talicreations

A more expensive type of glass and lead crystal beads are cut into precise faceted shapes on an individual basis. This was once done by hand, but has largely been taken over by precision machinery. Austrian crystal is a generic term for cut lead-crystal beads, based on the location and prestige of the Swarovski firm. Lead crystal beads have a high percentage of lead oxide in the glass formula, increasing the refractive index. 

Specialized glass techniques/types

In some cases, more specialized glassworking techniques may be applied, or a combination of multiple techniques and materials such as cloisonné.   

The cloisonné process begins with a bead where small metal strips called are soldered onto the base in a pattern to be filled in with enamel. The piece is heated in an oven and cooled in order to permanently affix the cloisons to the base. Next, ground, colored glass, or , is blended with water and painted into the sections marked off by the cloisons. It is allowed to dry before the entire piece is again fired in an oven. Multiple applications of frit and firings are often necessary to complete a single cloisonné work. Different colors or transparencies of frit may be layered on top of each other to create a desired look. Cloisonné is finished by polishing the piece smooth.

Aqua Blue Earrings with Crystal and Cloisonne Beads
Aqua Blue Earrings with Crystal and Cloisonne Beads   by 

Sterling Silver Coil Cats Eye Earrings
Sterling Silver Coil Cats Eye Earrings by twinkink

Fiber Optic or synthetic "Cat's Eye" glass beads have an eye-catching chatoyant effect across the grain. These beads are made from the same materials used in telephone fiber optic cables. These are created from quartz fibers which are fused together and machine-cut into shapes.

Dichroic glass is being used to produce high-end art beads. Dichroic glass has a thin film of metal fused to the surface of the glass, resulting in a surface that has a metallic sheen that changes between two colors when viewed at different angles. Beads can be pressed, or made with traditional lampworking techniques. 

Amethyst and Lampwork Bracelet by BaublesHandcraftedJewelry

There are also several ways to fuse many small glass canes together into a multicolored pattern, resulting in millefiori beads. Furnace glass uses large decorated canes built up out of smaller canes, encased in clear glass and then extruded to form the beads with linear and twisting stripe patterns. 

Lampwork beads involve a labor intensive process using a gas torch to heat a rod of glass and spinning the resulting thread around a metal rod covered in bead release. When the base bead has been formed, other colors of glass can be added to the surface to create many designs. After this initial stage of the bead making process, the bead can be further fired in a kiln to make it more durable.