When I was first learning about lampworking and what it entailed, I knew that it wasn’t the safest hobby you could have. There are high pressure combustibles and fire involved, as well as fumes and electrical equipment. I’ve read message board horror stories about nasty burns on various parts of the body, impaling fingers on stringers (thin pieces of glass uses for decorating beads), but that kind of stuff happens to others and I was born with a horseshoe up my butt.

I’ve been doing this for about 14 months now. In that time, I’ve accumulated about five and a half new scars. I can only say two good things for myself; 1. None of them have been the result of direct skin-to-flame contact, and 2. There aren’t about 500 more of them. All my burns have been because hot glass has cracked off the end of the rod from temperature shock with the resulting shrapnel landing on some exposed part of my body.  One and a half of the scars were caused where the same piece of glass hit my chest then rolled down to a part of my body that I definitely do not expose on a regular basis. Um, yeah. Not my best moment.

There was also an incident involving a reluctant flint striker, propane build-up, user error, a big-ass fireball and a torch-tip-turned-high-velocity-projectile, but we don’t speak of that anymore. Other than some serious butt-pucker cramps, I escaped injury. My point is that I’m respectful of the flame and the torch and I’ve been careful. That didn’t save me from the random electrocutions (plural!) that I suffered last week when my three month old kiln’s shipping damage reared its ugly head and zapped me. Twice!!

Hmmm. Psychological terror, electrocution and burnt private parts… If the lampworking thing doesn’t work out, I can always rent out my studio as a torture chamber. If you’re interested, let me know. Leave a message, though, because I’ll be checking the position of my horseshoe.

Jewelry and Underwear Gnomes

I’m trying to build a business. So far, it hasn’t really taken off and while I’d like to blame the economy, I have a feeling the problem is more fundamentally my product. Ok. Maybe it isn’t my product per se, but the fact that my product probably doesn’t appeal to a mass market. My mom asked me who my market was the other day. My jewelry is “cute,” “fun,” “whimsical,” and it costs over the average allowance of a ten year old girl. I think this automatically makes my market my family and kindergarten teachers, neither of which is likely to have much in the way of disposable income.

I’m sure that I could make different jewelry that would appeal to a larger segment of the population. The trouble is that I’m in love with it. I love making those beads, butting them together into a piece, then looking at, maybe wearing it so that I can more easily look at it without people looking at me funny. I’m not ready or willing to give that up.

This brings me to the realization that I’ve taken my marketing strategy from the South Park Underwear Gnomes. Instead of:

1: Steal underwear
2: …
3: Profit

My marketing plan looks like this:

1: Keep doing what I love
2: …
3: Profit

Conclusion: I’ll probably never be financially successful, but at least I’ll be fulfilled.

Pricing Puzzler

I think the hardest issue I’ve faced in trying to sell my jewelry is setting my pricing.  It’s so difficult for me to put a value on something that I’ve created from scratch.  I’ve been using a sophisticated pricing model (yeah, right) that is based on the price I’ve paid for the components plus my prorated hourly salary multiplied by two.  There are many problems with that model, not the least of which is that I’m making my own components (lampwork beads) and haven’t factored that cost into the model. Automatically, I’m in the hole.

Thus far, my best customers have been my family and my co-workers. That leads me to another part of my problem.  Do they know what lampworking is?  Do they know how much money I have invested in my supplies and equipment?  Do they know what artisan jewelry is? Do I even qualify to call myself an artisan?  I think I automatically assume the answer to all those questions is, “no,” so I discount everything.

Basically, I’m doing my calculations in my head and on the fly.  Customers: “Oh my gosh, that bracelet is sooo cute.  How much is it?” Me: “Thanks.” Inner dialog: That one was a lot of work. There’s three of my lampwork beads, plus about 40 Swarovski crystals that I double-loop wrapped… $50? She’s going to think that I think very highly of my amateur jewelry. Me: “$25.”  Ugh.
Basically, I’ve been selling the items for cost.  Good for their pocketbook and my relationships, but not good for my business.  Plus, it’s kind of making me feel that I don’t value my own money or time as much as I value everyone else’s.  Flash back to high-school insecurity and self-esteem issues.

The reason this is forefront of my mind right now is that I’m about to venture into marketing and selling my creations in a public forum.  I’m not talking about Etsy (which has netted me a grand total of $20 in sales over the past 5 months, pfft,) but actually selling things to strangers, face to face.  Before I do anything else, I need to have established, realistic prices for every item.

My head hurts just thinking about it.

Jenny Elisabeth’s new blog

Welcome to my new and improved website.  I’m going to give blogging a try again.  I say again because, well, I’ve tried before but I have what some people may characterize as a short attention span.  I blogged once for about a week then gave up on it.  I think I just couldn’t make myself interesting enough to hold my own attention. 

What’s different now?  I have a new business that I hope will take off and I can actually see myself doing this long term.  What is it, you ask?  Lampworking.  It’s possible that you know exactly what I’m talking about, but odds are that your looking at that word thinking that I make lamps.

Lampworking is actually an ancient art that involves using fire to melt glass and shape it into something else, for me, a bead of some sort.  Back in the “Olden Days” “they” used oil-fueled lamps.  In modern times, we use (most commonly) a duel fuel torch with the fuels being propane and oxygen.  These torches come in all sizes from tiny to big-ol-honkin’-could-burn-your-house-down-in-a-blink size.  I personally use a teeny-tiny sparkly green Cricket by GTT

So, I’m going to try the blogging thing again now that I have something more interesting to say and I’m going to try and post semi-regularly. However, if it comes down to me having to make a choice about where to spend my limited time, in front of the torch or in front of the computer, I’m going to pick the torch.  I guess that’s how it should be, though, since I’m going to try to build a business.