Last year I decided I'd try my hand at selling beadwork. Oh, I'd sold a few pieces here and there, but nothing at a shop. What happened is a whole lot of learning and not so many sales. –Jean Campbell, contributing editor, Beading Daily
Art opening at an eclectic midtown Minneapolis art gallery. The small gallery is packed with people. They mill about, eating canapés and looking at artwork.
JEAN to BECKY: You're mosaics are amazing! They have other great things here, too. Oh, look–there's a jewelry case.
BECKY introduces JEAN to OWNER 1.
JEAN: What a great gallery! I'd be interested in showing you my work for possible sales here.
OWNER 1: Thanks, yeah, it's been fun running it. Sure, I'd like to see your work. Just call to make an appointment.
JEAN: My people will call your people. Ha, ha.
OWNER 1 stares blankly at JEAN.
CUT to JEAN on phone, making appointment on the phone with OWNER 1.
CUT to JEAN waiting for three weeks for appointment.
Same gallery in Minneapolis. JEAN is dressed neatly and is wearing a tasteful amount of makeup. She carries a display case filled with handmade jewelry.
OWNER 1: Nice work! But too high-end for here. Go to Chicago or New York.
JEAN: I'd rather not go to those places. I'd like to sell in Minneapolis. At this gallery.
OWNER 1: Okay, but I'll need more wearable stuff.
JEAN: No problem. But I don't really know what I'm doing. I've never sold at a shop before.
OWNER 1: That's okay. You'll figure it out.
JEAN: I'm doing this as a sort of experiment, so I can write about it someday.
OWNER 1: Huh? Anyway, when you come only bring bracelets. Necklaces don't sell here.
OWNER 1: And bring something low-end for quick holiday sales but no earrings. They don't sell here.
CUT to JEAN in her studio making lots of bracelets. Receipts from bead purchases are scattered everywhere.
Art gallery. JEAN carries a box of the jewelry and presents it to OWNER 1.
OWNER 1: (Making a face.) They all have too many beads–everyone knows how to bead now, so beads don't sell.
JEAN: Oh. That would have been helpful to know because that's pretty much what I do.
OWNER 1: Hmm. And these don't have stylish colors.
JEAN: But I used the colors of the latest palette from New York's fashion week.
OWNER 1: But this is the Midwest, not New York. These look too nineties; these are too hard to put on; these are bangles, and no one wears bangles, especially in Minneapolis. But I'll put everything out anyway to see what happens.
JEAN: Can I have a receipt?
OWNER 1: Um, we don't usually do receipts.
JEAN: What? I need a receipt.
OWNER 1: Ooookaaay. I'll just sign your delivery list there.
CUT to JEAN waiting anxiously as holidays come and go. One bangle is sold. JEAN receives a check for $25.
JEAN calls OWNER 1.
JEAN: Let's lower the prices on my pieces.
OWNER 1: Okay, yeah, you set them too high.
JEAN: Why didn't you tell me sooner?
OWNER: I don't know. Prices are tricky.
One bracelet and one bangle are sold in February. JEAN receives a check for $75. In the meantime, a resort town shop owner visits OWNER 1's gallery.
CUT to JEAN receiving a call at home from OWNER 2.
OWNER 2: Can I put your stuff in my shop? We want earrings and anklets, too.
JEAN: Sure, I guess. How did you get my number?
OWNER 2: I saw your work in that gallery. I know the owner.
JEAN: Oh, okay.
JEAN calls OWNER 1.
JEAN: I want my stuff back because I'm sending it up North to see if it sells there.
OWNER 1: Okay. If you ever have metal jewelry, bring it in because beads don't sell here.
JEAN: (Jean rolls eyes.) Um, oh. Thanks.
JEAN'S studio as she makes more stuff to add to the old stuff. She sends it North. Summer comes and goes. One bracelet and several earrings are sold at the tourist trap. JEAN receives a check for $95. Tourist season ends.
OWNER 2: Can you come pick your stuff up?
JEAN: No. You're four hours away.
OWNER 2: Okay, we'll send it back to you via USPS.
The bracelets and anklets are returned, but the remaining earrings are mysteriously missing. Inside the box is an envelope. JEAN opens it and finds a $5 bill for shipping. Knowing this business is not for her, JEAN laughs hysterically.
I've since decided that I like writing about beadwork, not selling it! If you decide to try selling your work, read my tips and learn from my experience.