If you’ve ever had to make something to sell, anything, you know that it must be designed for sale. You don’t make what you want to make all the time; but rather what you think will sell. The customer is the boss.
At least that’s what I always thought. So as I approached my first ever craft show, courtesy of the Skyline Artisans’ Guild in Portland, I struggled to know what to make. Inventory was low, I had ten days to get ready, and six of them would be on the road.
During my six days in the front seat of a car, I made a silver-colored bracelet embellished with silver beads and tiny jingle bells. Like all prototypes, it was imperfect, but I liked it anyway. So I made another one that was more perfect. I love making these because they are a bit complicated, challenging and yet very rhythmic and soothing. I can do them in the front seat of a car, or in front of a great movie on television. And they end up being very rich and textured. They are among my very favorite things to make.
During my four days at home, I made things that were fast to make and could sell at a low price point.
I made simple things: charms on chains, great beads on chains, earrings that don’t dangle (so many women say they don’t wear dangles!) I was making things I thought would sell. Some I liked better than others.
I put all these in my inventory sack, throwing in the perfect jingle bell bracelet, and went off to the craft fair. There were other jewelry makers there, and I was thrilled when one of them walked by, looked at the jingle bell bracelet, and said, “Oh, you’re a serious beader!” Because I was prepared to be an outsider, an amateur. I was prepared to be laughed out of the grange. But that’s all that weirdo self-flagellating thinking that I guess we all do.
The customers wandered in, lingered at my table. They ignored the non-dangly earrings completely. But people kept picking up the jingle bell bracelet. Two vendors began fighting over it, and finally one of them just ambled over and gave me the money first.
The next day, I added the imperfect jingle bell bracelet, and two other vendors began to quibble over it. Again, I sold to the fastest bidder, and promised to make the third one on commission.
I sold other things too, from the simple collection. But everything I sold was something I loved. The things I had made because I thought they would sell – didn’t sell. The things I made because I love making them, most notably the jingle bell bracelet, just danced out the door.
So, there are two morals to this story. One is to do what you love, and the money will follow. The other is to do what you love, and only what you love, and put love into it at the same time. The money may not always follow, but work will never feel like work.