Thursday, July 16, 2009

Custom Orders - What Your Designer Needs to Know

I've spoken with several lampworkers who are all amazed that customers, when asking for a custom piece, seem put off by the number of questions we ask. I thought it may be helpful to examine why we need so much information.

As artists, most lampworkers work in a vacuum... not a real one - that would be way too windy to play with fire! But we work alone in our studios, making what we like, hoping it will sell or making what has sold in the past. It's guess work. And the same goes for jewelry designers. We list our items on websites and invariably, someone comes along and says, "I like your work and would like to have you make something for_________."

And it would seem they simply expect to pay an invoice and have it arrive in the mail.

But instead, most of us ask a ton of questions:

What type of piece are you looking for? (Bracelet, necklace, pendant, earrings, ring, cell phone charm?)

What colors does ____________ like? (It goes without saying, we wear our favorite colors most often.)

What are _______________'s favorite shapes? (Everyone has a shape that fascinates they could caress over and over. I love the way a piece feels as much as the way it looks!)

Is there a particular style of beads you are looking for? (Bold, graphic colors; Abstract designs; Cupcakes; Cute; Florals?)

What size of beads does _________ prefer? (I LOVE big, bold beads - I don't want anyone visually digging in my bosom to see what I'm wearing! But, my closest lampworking buddy freaks when she sees the size of my beads... her's are often the size of nickels or less. Scale is everything to an artist! And it means a lot in jewelry design. What will the customer be comfortable wearing?)

What metals? (Sterling, gold, copper, brass?)

And that question that both sides seem to dread - How much were you looking to spend?

We're not trying to be annoying. We're not trying to figure out how much we can get out of someone. No, we're trying to design a piece you / your giftee will love. And it's really hard to do that without much direction.

Think about it... I make focals that start at $10 and go up to around $75 - for ONE bead. There's a whole lot of leeway in there! Knowing what you're hoping to spend and what style of piece you are looking for really helps narrow the field.

A wire wrapped silver pendant is going to cost a lot less than a gold one. A copper piece is even less.

Awareness of the customer's favorite colors and style of beads also helps ensure they will be happy with the piece. The same goes for style of jewelry. I've let my earring holes grow shut because I'm on the phone so much that earrings annoy me. But I love a big fancy pendant or a really elaborate necklace when I go out.

When purchasing a custom piece, expect a conversation. It will make your designer's work much easier and you'll be so happy with the result.


I will return with that other painting post I promised... I 've decided to change tha up a bit, so stay tuned!


JanelDudleyBeads said...

Awesome topic Holly!

Jennifer Cameron said...

Great blog Holly! I never really thought about all the questions we ask. However, I know that after several emails back and forth I start to dread sending another with another question. LOL!