My Sketchbook

Monday, September 5, 2011

Buying Handmade Jewelry

This month's theme for EtsyMetal Blog Carnival is: "A Few Tips On Buying Handmade Jewelry
Share a few of your personal tips when it comes to the purchase of handmade art jewelry.

First of all, let's think about why we buy handmade in general. A handmade item, whatever it is, is a product of love, inspiration, value and joy for the maker. There is a special connection between the maker and the item and later the wearer of the piece. However, this is not true for all handmade things. There is a difference between a handmade item that was created by a worker in bad conditions and for a lousy salary. These items are just like mass produced, the only difference is that they were made with human hands. Sometimes even children's hands. We need to be aware of the difference. Buying directly from the artisan ensures this is not the case. Nowadays with e-commerce, and especially with Etsy, we can buy directly from the craftsperson even when they are on the other side of the planet. 

Some things to consider when buying handmade jewelry (or any handmade item for that matter) are design, uniqueness, and craftsmanship. Nowadays there is a trend in jewelry were the design on a piece is more valuable than the cost of the materials itself. This is because people are looking for uniqueness and personality and a handmade spirit that only creative hands can make. Time, lots of time go into this creative process. This usually begins with an inspiration from the artist, choosing materials for the piece, as well as a suitable technique, designing, and working for many hours, many times through experimentation, failure, trial and error to complete their vision. Sometimes this piece ends up being a one of a kind, and sometimes they become part of our "production" pieces, which means we will be making more (on a limited or small scale edition, after all, it's only our two hands).  This means that the time it took to design and experiment will be divided among the various pieces we will be selling of the design in the future. This is why one of a kinds usually cost more. And very often the piece ends up in the scrap metal container. Some jewelry makers will decide to use more expensive materials and less time designing. These are usually more traditional pieces, where the design is not as unique and original. So, when we buy jewelry we are paying (or should be, in my opinion) for a combination of these, depending on the piece:
  • art/design (how much thought was put into the idea/piece?)
  • materials (how expensive are the materials used?)
  • time (how much time did it take to make the piece?)
  • knowledge/expertise (what is the level of difficulty on the techniques used?)
  • craftsmanship (How well is it made?)
  • overhead (we have to pay for/replace/buy new tools, etc. -and we need LOTS)
I've heard many sellers complaining about what Etsy calls handmade. They feel that their craft is being unfairly compared to assembled jewelry rather than handmade from sheet metal and wire (some metal smiths even go as far as making their own sheets and wires, or cutting their own stones). I think it is just different, and while some buyers might not be aware of the difference, or not care about it, I think most do. There is a niche market for everyone out there, we just have to find it or let it find us.  

So when you see a piece of art jewelry made of found objects or recycled material, with simple techniques, don't think "Oh, I can do that" or "Oh, my kid could do that!", because you, or your kid DID'NT do that. The artist made it because he/she has the art background, the creative idea, the experience, the tools and the urge to make it. And that is why it is special.

There is this story where a guy takes his car to the mechanic, and the mechanic fixes the problem with a blow of a hammer. The car owner watches the whole thing. The mechanic hands over the keys to the car owner and says "that's it, you owe me 100 dollars". The car owner, in amazement says "you're going to charge me 100 dollars for a blow of a hammer?", the mechanic says: "no, it's 1 dollar for that, 99 dolars for knowing how and where to place the blow."

To read what other EtsyMetal members have to say about this topic, click on the following links:

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