Thursday, November 5, 2015

Making Gifts!

'Tis the season to start thinking about... gifts! Am I right? With Christmas, Hanukkah, and other seasonal holidays coming up next month, we must start preparations. And when you're a jewelry artist, it seems like all of your friends and relatives and coworkers expect handmade jewelry...
...Which is fine, really, except that it's much more time-consuming to make a gift than to simply go out and buy one! So I have a couple of thoughts on that, which I'd like to share.
1. Planning: Make a list of all the people you really have to prepare a gift for—immediate family, best friends, the boss at work—and then make a secondary list of folks you'd like to remember with a handmade gift, but may not have time to do so.
2. Starting early: As soon as you can begin, get going. Getting all your pieces made and packaged ahead of time will relieve a lot of your holiday stress. I start by making jewelry components first. For example, in the earrings pictured above, I made lots of large fine-silver fused rings and then shaped them into basic geometric shapes (squares & triangles), and then I forged and textured them. I later wrapped pearls and/or beads on them, and set them aside. Ear wires can always be added when you have time. I demonstrate making fine-silver components just like these in my online workshop, Big & Bold Wire Jewelry.
3. As you work: Pretend you're a jewelry-making factory. You're in production-mode now! How to produce a big batch of beautiful jewelry quickly? First, keep it simple. Elaborately wrapped, woven and coiled wire jewelry may be what you're known for, but this is not the time for that. Save your more time-consuming jewelry pieces for special times, like weddings or birthdays. When making lots of jewelry during the holidays, I always find it more expedient to keep my designs super-simple.
4. In process: You have your list of gift recipients, so do the math. For example, 10 recipients means 10 jewelry pieces. Decide if you're going to make bracelets, earrings, pins, or simple necklaces. I like to make earrings because they're always gratefully received by my friends and relatives. This year, I'll make plenty of components for earrings, and then assemble them quickly with beads, and later add ear wires.
5. Tips: For some reason, geometric designs always work in jewelry. Think circles, ovals, squares, rectangles, or triangles. Organic free-form shapes can also work, but sometimes they don't come out looking the way you'd planned. They're fun to experiment with, but when you're under a time-crunch I advise using what works.
Also, much as I love to make coiled and wrapped jewelry, I find that most people prefer simple, clean designs without a lot of elaborate wire wrapping. It pains me to say it, but honestly, that's also what sells best at the fairs and online. So, consider simplifying your jewelry designs. It will make things easier for you, and you'll make pieces that are more gratefully received.
These tips also work for those of you who sell your jewelry. Craft fairs are starting to pop up all over, and while serious sellers started making holiday items last summer, you still have time to get into the game. If you've been invited to participate in a craft fair this winter, go for it! Make at least a dozen pieces (remembering to keep them SIMPLE)—two dozen if you have more time. Earrings, bracelets and pins are the least time-consuming to make. You'll need some cute gift boxes or bags, too, so start sourcing them.
Finally, I wish you all good luck in your jewelry making endeavors. Whether you're making handmade items for gifts or to sell, you can do it! Just keep it simple, and get going as soon as possible. And have fun! That's the most important thing of all.
Happy wrapping,