Hello my friends,
Today I am going to talk to you about shopping for one of the most popular pieces of art a person can buy and that is handmade jewelry. Have you ever gone into a boutique or gallery and looked at an item and said to yourself, "I could make that." And you don't buy it because you just told yourself that. The funny thing is is lots of us (by the way I do that all....the.....time!) say that but then NEVER do it. We never look at something, nonchalantly say, I could recreate that, then go out, buy all the supplies, sit down for three hours, and bust out a perfect replica. It rarely happens that way. So this top ten list of things to know when shopping for local jewelry is to give you knowledge in what you are purchasing so that you know you are buying a well made product that is money well spent.
1) Just like asking at the farmers market, ask the shop keeper is this jewelry local? If you know where it comes from you know exactly where your money is going! Your money is going back to your local shop, keeping them in business, and it is going to someone who could potentially be your neighbor trying to feed their kids.
2) Is the piece well made? If you can see just by using your eyes and feeling with your hands that it is well made i.e. no jutting out pieces of wire or loose threads or crazy fragile pieces, then the artist obviously put in the time and energy to create for you a work of art that would last. I have, believe it or not, been to flea markets and boutiques where I pick up an item to look at and it either falls apart in my hands or is so close to breaking I quickly put it down so as not to be charged for damaging it.
3) How much time actually went in to making it? This is where lots of people fall short on information. Making jewelry is a fine art and depending on the techniques used, can actually take a long time to produce. From ordering or making parts to assembling them, it can take hours and even days for one piece to be created. When you are buying jewelry from big box stores all those pieces are assembled on an assembly line in a factory. Local jewelry is made on kitchen tables and in studios and the whole thing from start to finish is put together by the same person, usually, with love, care and passion for their work.
4) What is the product actually made from? If you are looking at a pendant necklace and the price just doesn't make sense to you because you feel it should be cheaper, ask the shop owner what is the pendant made from. You could be looking at a rare tumbled stone that you can only be found in a far region of Russia. Remember too, that all the materials used in making that particular piece were payed for or found by the fabricator. This rings true for all materials beads, wire, and thread.
- Techniques to look for that take time to produce-
5) Wire wrapping - If you find a piece where the artist has wire wrapped that means that they used either their fingers or pliers to create a connector. This method becomes easy over time but, still takes practice and patience to get it right.
6) Braiding or knotting with natural textiles - If you find a piece with any kind of braiding, no matter how intricate or simple, know that that artist took a lot of time and hand cramping to produce that braid. Even one braided necklace can take several hours to produce depending on the difficulty of braid.
7) Beading - Putting beads on a string seams super easy but it takes time, energy, and creativity to give you the final project. Anyone can put beads on a string you might say but, what about finishing it? What do the ends look like? What kind of labor and creativity went into the final product? How intricate is the necklace or bracelet?
8) Fabricating - the action or process of manufacturing or inventing something. Handmade fabricated jewelry could be put under the category of taking already made objects and creating something new with them. This also can be called up-cycling. These pieces are super fun to wear because each item comes from a different place and has its own story.
9) Smithing - The definition of smith is to treat (metal) by heating, hammering, forging, pulling, or sauntering it. Smithed pieces are super awesome because of the process they go through to become what they are. Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint what was actually smithed by the artist and what was bought at the craft store and fabricated in China. Again you will have to asked the shop owner if you want to know the history of the piece you are purchasing.
10) Cost breakdown when buying local. When you find a piece of wearable art for say $30 know that right off the top the artist is only getting a percentage of that thirty. Standard percentages are 60/40 that means the gallery keeps 40% of the profit and yes even dear etsy.com takes their cut. OK so the gallery or shop sends the artist $18, Yay! But wait it might cost the artist $8 in materials and 1 hour to make, so, in the end the artist made about $8 an hour on their necklace after factoring in taxes. Sounds like that artist needs to up the price of their art, right?
In conclusion, know that when you are buying local, whatever it may be, that you not only are supporting that local business but you are supporting the local craftsman and their families as well. Buying local handmade jewelry brings us back to a time and place where the only markets were local. You knew the person who created your art, you knew their work shop and their working conditions. I, personally, would much rather support a stay at home mom who works till 11 at night at her kitchen table, doing what she loves, rather than a giant business machine pumping out cookie cutter pieces one after the other, but that's just me. Don't get me wrong I still shop at those giant business I am just saying I would much RATHER support local peeps.
Here are some links to my favorite jewelry shops where I actually know the people who make the stuff! Have fun Shopping!