Beads for Sale! by Jean Campbell

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.

JEAN: Okay.

OWNER 1: And bring something low-end for quick holiday sales but no earrings. They don't sell here.

JEAN: Okay.

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. 

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Beading Daily Blog
Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

2 thoughts on “Beads for Sale! by Jean Campbell

  1. That was a great read. I have a friend who has been in business for five years doing very well (not beads) She has been a great mentor to starting my own beading business. She asked me if I would like to put some of my creations on her Valentines Stall which was very generous of her. I beaded away making Valentine themed necklaces. I spent the day at the stall with her and sold one and that was to another great friend who encourages me greatly. I learnt very quickly that I have to research my market and know my market and also be honest with myself. I decided I will make a small range of different creations and see what appeals at the markets, before I choose one particular style to make. Mainly because at the end of the day I want it to support the things I’d like to make even if I have make different jewelry for the passers by.

  2. We tried consignments but found that some of our products seem to disappear and we were losing money. I will NEVER do consignments again. So, my son and I decided to set up a booth at the flea market. The reason for the flea market was that there would be a variety of people. We decided that we would only be there a year to get the word out. As it turned out, one booth was not enough and we had to expand. In that year, we did well. We gave out tons and tons of business cards and got many repeat customers, which we still have. The year was up in January and we left the flea market and now do the internet and shows. We do a lot of custom work and we are always coming up with new ideas, which is important.