She’s making jewelry now….revisited

Portlandia–She’s Making Jewelry Now

I finally got around to sorting the remnants of the paperwork from my jewelry-making business of the mid 90s-2002. The big plastic box that held all that stuff when I finally decided that I was done with jewelry making needs to be used for other things, and it’s been well over ten years since I last sold any jewelry on a regular basis. The past few years, I’ve either traded small pieces at music festivals for things I wanted, or given the remainders as gifts to friends and colleagues. But I’ve not made any new pieces, much less even thought about selling the jewelry.

I did make some nice-looking stuff. Amongst the paperwork were pictures of some of my designs. For being just a bead-stringer, I did do some interesting designs that I’ve not really seen done by others. Not top-of-the-line award-winning, by any means (though one piece did win at an art show in Sandy), but midline pretty stuff in nice color combinations. That was the market I aimed for–the person who wanted reasonably priced nice stone beadwork but didn’t want to spend a fortune on pretty rocks.

I sold jewelry at neighborhood shops and craft fairs. Designed some sf and fantasy work to sell at various science fiction conventions, including a Worldcon (LoneStarCon 2), I think at least one Westercon, and some small local cons. Had a website at Bigstep for a year or so. But my bread and butter came from selling on eBay and Amazon auctions, early on in their tenure.

Looking back over the papers brought back memories. Auction descriptions evoked images of the necklaces and earrings I designed. I was surprised by how quickly I remembered a particular piece by just looking at the description. I did have a handful of dedicated and regular clients who didn’t just look for my auctions, they contacted me separately for design work. There were days when I was either at the computer writing or in the basement designing, and summers became about making jewelry for the big fall sales online, while winter and spring focused on the writing. I got a flow going, but….

It was never a big source of money. My skill level was too low, for one–I didn’t do metal work, just simple bead stringing design. The materials I used were not the most expensive quality beads. As beading became a more popular hobby, more people figured out how to make their own earrings, creating designs pretty similar to what I could do.

But that didn’t really push me out of jewelry. What did it was two-fold–the need for me to bring in more money to the household, but even more than that, 9/11 put paid to my jewelry selling. Up until that morning, I was poised for my best sales year ever.

And then it happened. My online business withered away that fall, between 9/11 and anthrax scares. Other commitments cut into what I could do at bazaars and craft fairs. The 2002 online sales scene was just a shadow of what it could have been…and I had been accepted into a teaching program.

Shades of Portlandia.

Will I do it again? Probably not at that intensity…but I might make a few pieces here and there. Just no more earring marathons. There is a certain calming rhythm about laying out a piece on the bead board and putting together the shapes and colors.

But I sure as heck won’t count on it for much.

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