If I’d Only Known — Some Tips for New Beaders

I’ve mentioned in the past that I got into the jewelry design business completely and totally by accident.  I didn’t take a class, just jumped in with both feet and started messing around and figuring things out for myself.

Almost immediately, my hobby turned into a business.  Looking back, there are so many things I wish I’d known:

1)  Beads will take over your life.

Do not fight this.  So from the start, get a huge storage system in place.  It will be full sooner than you know.  The quicker you allocate studio space (even if it’s a corner in your basement!), the quicker you’ll be able to find things when you need them — and you’ll know what you have so you don’t keep buying the same supply over and over again!

2)  Take some classes early on.

I don’t know how long it was before I learned how to make a perfect wrapped loop, but at first, I had no idea how.  And it showed.

I now allow myself to make all sorts of mistakes while I’m learning a technique….

…but when it comes to selling something, I’m very, very particular about how something is constructed.

3)  Explore different mediums.

Right now, I’m a stringing/wire work jewelry designer.  I know traditional metalsmithing and lampwork bead making, but I’ve gotten so involved with keeping inventory up for the shows I do that I don’t have much time to look into other things, or hone new skills.  If I’d started exploring new mediums sooner, who knows what I’d be making now … altered art?  Woven wire?  PMC?.  It also would have helped me figure out what direction I wanted to go with my jewelry — what did I want my primary market to be?  I didn’t allow myself enough experimentation time before starting to sell.

4)  If you’re going to sell your work, use the best beads you can afford.

I should have been pickier when I first started selling my work.  I cringe now at what I was using.  This doesn’t mean you have to start with AAA London Blue Topaz, but if you’re going to be serious about selling, be serious about your beads.  There are LOTS of wonderful art beads out there that will run circles around the run-of-the-mill beads you’ll see in craft stores.

Suburban Girl Beads

 5)  Get a handle on your pricing structure right away.

I quickly learned that my retail prices weren’t going to support a wholesale business.  I also learned that because I started with such cheap beads, it was a little difficult for my customers to get used to prices once I discovered beauties like handmade glass.  (Another good reason to make sure you’re happy with your style before you start selling it!)  Do some research by hitting the craft shows — what is the price range that seems to be selling?  Additionally, try to decide right away if you’re going after the wholesale or retail market.  Each one has its own peculiarities, and it’s often a good idea to choose one or the other.

I feel pretty lucky that seven years later, things have turned out as well as they have.  But it sure would have made a difference if I knew then what I know now.

What are some things YOU wish you’d known then?

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist’s Year Off.    She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party. 

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20 Comment

  1. Sherri
    May 24, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    What great advice! I think you and I are the same person!! I jumped right in too not taking a class, but boy have I learned alot!!

  2. Claire Maunsell
    May 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Excellent advice. Full stop. Wish I had considered some of these things before. Note to self: Must stop running madly off in all directions….
    Thanks Lori

  3. Michelle
    May 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I wish I would have been able to read this article a decade ago. Looking back now, these are all the things I wish I had known!

  4. somethingunique
    May 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Diddo to all of the above i also just jumped in and the only place to get supplies was the local craft store and wow have i learned a lot since then. Most of the stuff i purchased was junk i wish i had know but i do now & am much wiser when i puchase components and beads. thanks Lori you Rock!! ttfn L:)

  5. Charlene
    May 24, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    This is great advice. One thing you touch on that I'd like to expand on is finishing. Taking the time to learn how to finish jewelry properly is just as important as making a beautiful design. Also thinking about the wear and tear the piece may undergo and doing what you can to increase its longevity.

  6. BackstoryBeads
    May 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I'm SO glad I found your blog. Much appreciate the advice and direction – I'm just starting out -and hope there'll be more! I love, love, LOVE, that fly pendant!

  7. Susanna Originals
    May 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Great article and I had to laugh at the part about beads taking over your life. I went to an auction sale and bought a beautiful maple dresser for my spare bedroom. It's never made it upstairs and is now nestled against my kitchen island holding jewelry tools. Not only has it taken over my life, it's completely taken over my downstairs. I thought horses were a bad addiction, but beads…

  8. Elly Snare
    May 24, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    This post made me laugh with number one – very true! I am just starting out and already found some classes in silversmithing that I want to take for the next step in my jewellery making. I think that 5 is probably the hardest (but also there's lots of helpful information out on the subject).

    I also think that 4 and 5 go hand in hand: I see a lot of jewellery makers I know selling lots of work, using not so high quality beads, and for very little reward. Using high quality beads and findings looks and feels so much better 🙂

  9. CraftCrave
    May 25, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [25 May 02:15am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  10. Gold Charm
    May 25, 2011 at 2:45 am

    It is a good experience mixing up mediums and metals and beads and trying out a new creative pursuit every time.It increases the imagination and thought of the maker too.

  11. Menka Gupta
    May 25, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Great advice. I totally agree that taking classes
    and trying different media will definitely expand
    your horizons. That's what I am looking for. Thanks!

  12. JoAnn
    May 25, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Thanks! This is fabulous advice. I am new and you have just given me permission to take things slowly, try more styles of jewelry making, take more classes and just have fun! What suggestions do you have for not only organizing your beads but labeling the prices so it is easy to price out a piece? This can't be rocket science but I can't wrap my brain around it.

  13. Kathy
    May 26, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Thank you–I am just starting too and boy, have beads been taking over my life too! I like the advice about quality beads. I have been finding my tastes lately going more towards quality but already I have spent way too much on junk. Your post will help me slow down and think about my plan more. I am so happy I found this blog!

  14. Pam Chesbro
    May 27, 2011 at 3:50 am

    Wow…I've already made the first two mistakes but I think your other tips might be "in time." Thanks. Storage is always going to be a problem. I just don't think I can afford to tackle the problem in the way it should be tackled! How do you do it?

  15. Diana P.
    May 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Excellent advice! And thanks for posting one of my pendants!

  16. Happy Mango Beads
    May 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Excellent suggestions. "Bead will take over your life. Do not fight this." lol, so true…. love it!

  17. roseworksjewelry
    May 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Great suggestions Lori! As always 🙂

  18. Marieke
    May 29, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. Beads have already taken over my life since I started lampworking, but lately I've also started designing my own jewelry, so I will keep your tips in mind for sure!

  19. Andrea (Studio Eleven 11)
    June 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    LOVE this post. Great advice. I'm finding it hard not to jump from medium to medium. So many fun things to play with. Thanks again!

  20. Pine Ridge Treasures
    June 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I had to laugh reading your post. I wish that I had know these things also. I love beads! They have taken over my dining room, and almost every other room. Good thing I bought a ton of organizers!

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