Saturday, December 20, 2008

What is Style?

I was browsing early this morning-can't sleep because of a slight toothache-and I came across this article that talks about my first improvement point from my last post:

It's a great article and it pretty much validates what I've been thinking all along. I often wonder however, what separates style from trend and can you ever incorporate the two in order to reach a larger consumer base without alienating loyal customers. For example, if you've ever seen a United Colors of Benetton ad or have seen the tribal photography of National Geographic I'd say I pretty much like that style. Many of my family and friends (and some of my local customers) are into styles like Baby Phat and Rocawear. They've always expressed admiration for my work whenever they see a new creation of mine. Nevertheless , its often been a struggle to modify my jewelry to fit their taste without compromising my own creativity. How do you feel about this? Feel free to post your thoughts and comments.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Year Older and Wiser...I hope

Today is my birthday and for the last few days I've been reflecting on how my life's path is going. Right now I feel at peace about where I am spiritually, mentally and with my family and friends. At the same time I also feel a sense of urgency and motivation to go on to the next level with my business in jewelry making and design. Lately, I've been reading a book called Crafting as a Business by Wendy Rosen and I'm beginning to find it to be a very resourceful tool.

My jewelry, at first, was offered to myself, family and close friends. Soon others that noticed my work started to want to buy my creations. After a while I finally got up the courage to do my first small home party and to my surprise it was successful-that is, I made a small profit-enough to treat my family to a pizza dinner the next night, at least. I was still working out my pricing formula and it seemed that I was selling jewelry just to have to buy more supplies to make more jewelry. I wanted to get out of that cycle. Not only that, I was struggling with trying to figure out my packaging and business image, how to obtain materials at a wholesale price, figuring out how to obtain a business licenses, and so on and so on...

I finally sat down with a mentor of mine by the name of Elizabeth Agte. I'd attended a workshop of hers once that taught PMC and I regularly visit her booth whenever she does Artwalk. She pretty much broke it down for me-as far as obtaining a DBA in NY, how to avoid overrated craft shows that would have more resale vendors than crafters and how to avoid consignment shops and boutiques that would have your creations sitting in a pile of dust or becoming "lost"while they pushed sales for their "friends" and colleagues artwork.

Joining Etsy was and still is a sort of experiment for me. I wanted to see for one thing if people besides my closest companions would be interested in buying my work. I also wanted to see how others who also created jewelry were pricing their work. I've learned a lot from selling online but to be honest, I wish that when I first started I would have been more prepared. I actually studied Etsy as well as other eccomerce sites to see how things were done for a whole year before I opened up shop and I still had not put everything that I needed to in place.

Some things that I would have done different in the beginning:

1. Streamlined and developed my product. At first I was all over the place making things just because I knew how. I realized after a while that I needed to focus on a certain style for my work...something that would make my items recognizable to people. This does not apply just to the product but also to the details from the packaging to the business cards.(I'm still working on the details☺)

2. Find my customers. I know there are people out there like myself who love the eclectic, primitive, ethereal, natural, artistic sort of bohemian look(that's a mouthful). I just needed to find who they were and what they were willing to spend for my jewelry. My very first sale on Etsy was for a customer in Australia-a place known for its tribal art and influences.

3. Finding the value of my work. I was barely making a profit at first and I knew I had to reevaluate my prices if I was going to try to make this work as a business. I created a list of materials that I would use that would bring value to my work. For example, in my SCJ shop, I am using only sterling silver, raw brass and gold filled beads and components, gemstones,pearls natural beads and natural fibers. Any other materials or components placed in my work will be secondary-the majority of each of my jewelry pieces will consist of the more valuable material. I watch the silver market and keep up on the latest offers from my suppliers to let me know when is the best time to purchase more. In the near future, I plan to incorporate quality karat gold and other items (a surprise) into my work. Along with the time,techniques,methods and design process that I go through, I am able to come up with a fair value for my work which gives me a good profit and gives my customers a piece of my artwork at a good price.

These are just three things that I have or am working on. I'll be discussing more in the future (you'll see an opinion poll pop up once or twice here in the coming year). I'm anticipating that by my next birthday that I'll have become even more attuned to the needs of my customer base and how I want to represent myself and my work to the public.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

About Baby Dragon

Let me introduce you to Baby Dragon. I've only mentioned her once briefly in my very first blog post but now I think its time that you've become more acquainted with her...

Baby Dragon started out as a little girl born in 1992. My daughter, LaNina when she first emerged into the world came out crying and growling. Afterwards, whenever she was hungry or needed a change she would start up with her signature growling and huffing cry. My family promptly nicknamed her Baby Dragon. At age 16 she has long since grown out of this but the nickname still stuck. Of course she's forbidden me to use it in public.

Baby Dragon has now become collaborative works created by me and my daughter. These works can range from jewelry to house decor. We've decided to house our shops at two sites; one at Etsy and the other at Ecrater under the Shannon Cintron Jewelry site. Our weekly trips to the local craft store are a real treat for us. We love experimenting with new materials and equipment and we especially like to reuse and upcycle things. Because jewelry making is our favorite creative outlet, you will see that our jewelry creations dominate the majority of each shop. We also, however, offer small home decor and stationary items at Etsy.

LaNina, along with my other two children, has autism. With all of my children , I encourage them to be the best at what they have a passion and drive for. I put no limits to their abilities and I expect them not to either. All of my children have a creative niche-both of my sons like to sculpt and build with clay -and at every opportunity, I try and nurture their interests by exposing them to all types of skill building and social networks related to whatever we're learning about. We are regulars at our community centers and museums. Along with my husband, we take nature walks, go on road trips to unfamiliar areas and do other things so that they are constantly challenged and stimulated.

LaNina comes up with amazing ideas. Right now, in our Etsy shop, we have a series of jewelry pieces inspired by rock crystal formations. She came up with the concept and I helped to execute the design. We used the items that were immediately available to us and all and all we think that they came out lovely.

Our contributuions to Baby Dragon are equal and valuable. You will see that as my daughter grows and her ideas evolve, the look of Baby Dragon will change yet stay fresh, trendy and new and just like when she was a baby, it will be hard for me to keep up with her-creatively, that is☺

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm Back and Ready to Work!

I must say that this past weeks vacation did my body and soul wonders! I honestly had not realized how badly I needed to "get away" from my repetitive schedule and take a moment to breath. At home for the past few months I've been saturated in house duties, wifehood, motherhood and even my creative outlet of making and selling jewelry was becoming more work to me than fun. Especially the business part of networking and promoting my shop. As the holidays are approaching , I've been feeling the pressure to come up with some new pieces. Checking out the forums at Etsy and 1000Markets I can see that I'm not alone.

To make myself feel less guilty about leaving my shops dormant for a week to go enjoy myself, I vowed to do some type of self promotion. I packed cards to pass out to the boutique shop owners and put on my Boho Hoops to wear down there in Edenton. Once we got there all I wanted to do was sleep for hours. After I slept I just wanted to got outside, enjoy the weather (an average of 60 degrees the whole time we were there) and take in the scenery. I did no networking at all and I'm fine with that. Being down there in Edenton and doing things other than making jewelry allowed me to become inspired with brand new ideas for my jewelry line once I got home.

Some of the things I did:

1. Helped my Grandmother hand sew a quilt she had been working on. She's a very skilled and avid quilter and working on a different craft with her was fun.

2. Pecan picking. My family owns land there, right off of route 32N were there are pecan trees and a corn field. The pecans are just right for picking this time of year. I vow to make pecan pie with these before the year is up.

3. Visited historical Edenton. This is located downtown and along the main street are some mom and pop shops, boutiques and other retail stores. This street runs into the Albermarle Bay where there is a small park with a playground that has beautiful magnolia trees and a boardwalk.

Now my mind is all aswirl with ideas that will incorporate fabrics and natural textures and shapes (pecans and magnolias). I've already drawn up simple sketches but I'm pretty sure that I will not have these pieces done before the holiday rush. I'm still working on other jewelry items that I really am very excited about but I think these new inspirations will be worth the wait.

Here's a couple of pictures that I took of a cypress tree and a couple of magnolia pods. If you'd like to see more pics of our vacation, please click on the Flickr widget to your right☺