My attempt at a USP, and connection

Something I have been planning to share for a while, is how I approach the whole ‘interacting with paying customers’ part of my little jewellery business, and why.

When my newly-wed, city dwelling parents moved to rural Devon from the suburbs of London in 1970, the small village had it’s own saddler, blacksmith, baker, shop, post office, doctor primary school and until just before they moved, a bus to the local town and it’s own fully staffed tiny police station, complete with cell. Plus of course (like most Devon villages) a couple of pubs, a church and a chapel. It was still lacking any useable public transport, and by the time I escaped left the village in 1990 to go to college, all bar the school, churches, pubs and Post Office had closed. I have an extremely faint memory of watching the blacksmith in his forge, none of the bakery but many stronger memories of Alan the Saddler (they lived opposite us) and the shop. What I do remember is being able to watch their commissioned work being made, and I wanted to be able to echo that with my work.

Most of my sales come through Etsy, and are either of items I’ve already made, or repeat sales of an item I made earlier (at the moment Bat’lethsย and theseย earrings are very popular ๐Ÿ™‚ ).ย  I make practically everything myself (regular exceptions being boltring clasps, butterfly backs and fine chain) and it’s important to me to try and engage with each person; recapturing and sharing that sense of creation, community and awe I gained as a child when I watched an expert craftsman make something useful and beautiful from raw ingredients. That connection – with craft and with people – however minor is crucial to me.

Now, I’m far from expert, but I do recognise the element of truth in the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ Anyone with a skill will understand how, one friend will be completely amazed by something you can do well, without thinking about it – parallel parking, joke telling, knitting, long division, tolerating small children, sewing – all these are things I wish I could do better (or in the case of knitting and maths – do at all!) They are also all things that most other people don’t see in themselves as an amazing skill / superpower, merely something they learnt along the way.

The same thing goes for me and my jewellery. As I said, I’m not an expert, I don’t consider myself highly skilled and I learn something new every week – usually via a mistake, but I recognise that for most people the process of forging something wearable from a precious metal seems shrouded in archaic skill.

So, whenever I receive an order for something that I need to make before I can dispatch it, I send my customer regular work in progress photos. ‘WiP-Pics’. Yes it adds to the time it takes me, no I don’t factor that into my fee, yes it bemuses some people, but I like to think it adds to their overall experience. Crucially it helps me feel that connection to my roots as a craftswoman / artisan maker (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious). The upside is that it helps me justify that my work is more costly than something off the shelf, or imported from overseas, and I feel that my Wip-Pics help to communicate why that is the case. Of course, if it’s a gift then the giftee will also get to benefit from the experience of having commissioned something. It’s all part of adding value.

So, here’s a recent commission, and some of it’s allied WiP-Pics here, so you can get an idea of how this might feel.

Before I start- here are the formal photos of the finished piece, taken with my 2009, point and click compact Fuji FinePixF10 (that’s my neck, not my customer’s!). I don’t do any post production editing with my pictures – I want the finished article to be better than the photos, so I never use a filter, or do anything editty other than crop, group and superimpose text. I might not get quite as many sales as all those flat-laying professionals, but I’m happier

 

WiP-Pics. All taken with my phone (Sony G3121)

I’ve annotated each of them – when I send them to my customer, I include a brief summary of what’s happening, and any decisions that need to be made by them – choice of stone, changes if the original brief isn’t going to work, clarification on sizing etc

Firstly, after the design is agreed upon, there’s inevitably some fine tuning. In this project that was predominantly on the sizing of the beaten hoops, and the exact gemstones to be included

Then there’s the manufacturing of the pieces. Done in three stages- the main decorative element (silver rings sawn, beaten, stamped, shaped, stones wrapped, assembled)

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1 Using a socket set to form a consistent coil, which I then saw from the inside, to create evenly sized jumprings

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2 Annealing the jumprings after filing

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3 Jumprings soldered closed, any unevenness filed, hammered on my block to make them flat (and the rest of that day’s coils for other projects which includes the components for those earrings I mentioned earlier)

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4 Reshaping the rings – the hammering tends to distort them a little Selecting the best and putting them in order, annealing after the letters are stamped in, taping one to my steel block so it doesn’t move when stamping

 

The second part is to make the chain that goes round the back of the neck

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Chain 1 Coiling the jumprings for the individual links, setting them up on my saw, the coils after sawing

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Chain 2 Tiny pallions of solder (this gets rolled through my mill, pickled to clean, then snipped into pieces – see one on my finger tip?!) All those jumprings came from the three coils in the last collage The difference in finish that a tumble makes

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Chain 3 Stretch the jumpring Pinch the jumpring Bend the jumpring Repeat. I need 5 for every 2cm of chain (All four stages)

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chain 4 Not all joints survive the stretching process! Assembling the chain

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chain 5 Using the draw-plate (before, with a scrap of leather I use to help protect my fingers when gripping the leading wire) One un-drawn, one drawn, one tumbled Into the tumbler they go

Finally, assemble the two and dispatch, all the while hoping that the finished article is better than the customer envisioned!

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Quick photos with my phone, to check everything works

About DawnGillDesigns

Finally able to make stuff and get paid for it!!! How cool is this?! Find me and my shinies on www.DawnGillDesigns.com and as @DawnGillDesigns on social media
This entry was posted in processes, silver, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to My attempt at a USP, and connection

  1. KerryCan says:

    Excellent post! I love your philosophy and approach to communicating with your customers–I think I need to adopt some of that when I do custom weaving! And I have made loop-in-loop chains from fine silver, both single and double, and I know how time-consuming the process is, and what a beautiful chain it makes. I do hope you’re charging enough for you work!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thanks Kerry. It’s very rare a customer doesn’t love a wip pic, so you ought to adopt it! And yes, I think I’m borderline with the pricing – I want people to be able to afford something handcrafted, but not undersell. It’s a challenging balance!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. ๐ŸŒผ

      Like

  2. katechiconi says:

    I do enjoy these insights into what goes into producing one of your lovely pieces. Metal is a substrate completely foreign to me, and I can now see just how much work is involved. I do think a WIP post is interesting; I’m committed to progress-posting as I’ve always felt that ‘tah-dah!’ photos of the finished thing with no idea of how it was arrived at are a bit unsatisfying. What it also achieves, of course, is a strong sense of the value of the thing in terms of the sheer amount of work that goes into it. I’m sure your customers who are involved in the process treasure your work far more than people who simply buy a finished piece on Etsy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joanne S says:

    I’ll admit to thinking it all ” shrouded in archaic skill.” ๐Ÿ™‚ I took a lost wax method class waaay back in my college days – still have the pieces I made. But, girl. You’ve some talent! One can definitely see the amount of careful skill portrayed through your images. I like to see and hear about the before/after, as well as, the during process. I think it helps to understand and appreciate the final product.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oh! What a kind thing to say, Joanne. Thank you. I haven’t attempted any casting at all yet… the closest I get is sculpting something in airdry clay, then making a mould and using Art Clay Silver. Lost wax is on my list ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

  4. Tara says:

    I love that you send them WIP photos, it must make the item even more precious to them. Love the necklace too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tara. I always hope it helps make it feel more personal. Twice so far I had a commission and was asked to send the wip pics to both the giftee and the giver – every one a surprise to the recipient as they didn’t know what was planned. Those were extra fun for me!

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  5. wonderful photos and explanations, thank you for taking the time (because I know how long it takes). The necklace is stunning and I hope the customer was suitably impressed. Love your philosophy, I have demonstrated, mainly spinning, at fairs, exhibitions and sales for years in the hope that people would see how much work/time goes into making something by hand. Education is a part of the making, selling and pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lol, I think I will plan ahead better next time, and upload the photos, copying and pasting my explanations as I go!! So glad you enjoyed the read – I love your posts – thanks so much for taking the time to comment. ๐ŸŒผ

      Like

  6. dvberkom says:

    What a lovely post! Fab pieces. I adore the idea of sending WIP pics. Makes it so personal. Your work is fantastic–I proudly wear the pieces you’ve made all the time, and get lots of admiring comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. acflory says:

    That is simply amazing, Dawn. And no, it’s not at all like some casual skill! I had no idea so much effort and yes, skill, goes into creating a ‘simple’ necklace. As these bespoke pieces are made individually, I wonder if you could give your clients a certificate of some sort along with the WIP-PICs. Great concept, by the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Andrea, that’s a great idea – and I’m pleased to tell you that each person like this gets a special invoice, with a photo of the finished piece, a full description and my guarantee on it. I do an extra one without the price if they ask, or if it’s a gift for someone other than a partner. Thanks for taking the time to think about how I can make something even more special. hugs

      Like

      • acflory says:

        -grin- I should have known you’d be travelling down that path already!
        The reason I thought of it was that one of the places where I volunteer is an RTO, registered training organisation. After students finish a course, the RTO prints out their certificates on special paper. It’s thick and feels kind of like parchment. It’s not, of course, but the certificate does look really ‘official’. The kind of thing you’d frame and hang on a wall. I have one. lol

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Scrap-Happy May 2019 | DawnGillDesigns

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