have never sold a beaded item that I've made. I've come close more than once, including one time at work when two coworkers were arguing over how much a necklace of mine should sell for! (And not in the way you might assume–they actually kept upping the suggested price!)
At the time, I felt so personally attached to what I'd made that I didn't want to let it go. Sure, I could make another one, but what was the fun in that? Now that I've been beading longer and I see the delight my friends and family get from my beaded gifts, I understand the appeal of selling your work beyond the obvious financial rewards. Many of you already see the appeal–89% of the more than 1,400 respondents to the question "Have you ever sold a beaded item?" answered YES!
At left: One of my "almost" sales, my "Waikiki Wishes" necklace. (Instructions in Creative Jewelry coming out summer 2008.)
Your First Sale
Bracelets (31%) and necklaces (30%) were the most popular first-sale items. Other common items included earrings, badge holders, Christmas ornaments, and bags. Some of the more unusual items included bookmarks, hair stick, stitch markers, scissor fob, lighter cover, roller skating outfit, peyote stitch “stained glass” wall hanging, a sculptural rabbit with a loomed beadwork belt, and a macramé and beaded plant hanger. (Yes, this last item was sold in the 1970s!)
Not surprisingly, many first sales were unplanned:
“I had not planned to sell anything, but a friend just HAD to have them for his girlfriend after he saw me wearing the set!”
"I had just learned to make crocheted ropes and was wearing a white necklace with a sterling slide. A waitress in a restaurant admired it and the next thing I knew she bought it right off my neck."–Thea
Many first customers included friends and family:
"My first bracelet I sold to a friend–who I wanted to give the bracelet to–but she insisted on paying me!"–Aurora Fox
"My first sale was to an uncle of mine who bought a blue necklace for his wife. She loved it so much that he ended up ordering the bracelet and earrings that matched it."–Sue Gumina, ShironaDesigns.com
Co-workers were also popular first customers:
"I had brought some of my necklaces that I had made into work just to show off and one of my co-workers wanted to buy it. She still wears it today and brags about how talented I am and tells everybody that I made it for her."–Cissie
When you think about selling your jewelry, you might naturally think about craft shows or galleries. While those places were mentioned by readers, they were outnumbered by more ordinary places: beauty salons, churches, doctor and dentist offices, garage sales, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, and workplaces.
"My kids were young and not in school, so I would take them to the Child Watch at the local YMCA and do homework while they played. Some other mothers that were there loved a pair of earrings I had made and one bought a pair for her daughter for Christmas."–Kassie, beadingbutterfly.com
“I was wearing one of my beaded bracelets while grocery shopping. A woman followed me around the store until I became uncomfortable enough to ask why she was following me. She wanted to look more closely at the bracelet and ended up buying it right off my arm!"–Lady Jamaica
And there were more than a few who didn't even leave their homes to make those first sales:
"My first sale happened where I keep and work on all my beaded jewelry–in my bedroom! One evening, I was looking through all my pieces I made (at that time was about 50) and a friend of mine happened to stop by. When she saw my jewelry, within 15 minutes, she had me put aside 3 pieces she was buying. She paid for half up front to have me hold them for the following week when she could pay me the rest."–Kim, beadnbear.com
"In 1985, I had my first "Beaded Jewelry Home Sale." The first piece I sold was a multiple strand necklace for $85. I was especially delighted (and encouraged) with that sale because it was to a total stranger, a casual friend of a friend who had invited her to my sale."–Robin Atkins
A few people had first sales online at places like Ebay or Etsy, but they were in the minority. This makes sense, given how surprised so many people were by their first sale. Selling online requires planning; wearing a bracelet to a restaurant and having someone buy it off your arm does not.
"I discovered the website Etsy.com a couple of months after it went live. I had a huge stash of stuff I'd made, but didn't use, and all my friends had been 'gifted out.' I decided to list a couple of paper pins I had created and, lo and behold, they sold! I asked next to nothing for them, much less than now, but I was absolutely in heaven because somebody liked them enough to pay for them."
Those who didn’t sell their jewelry gave it away as gifts, traded it, donated it for charity auctions, entered it into art shows, or were eventually planning to sell it.
“I refuse to sell my beadwork for something at trite as $ to strangers. I sometimes trade or gift them but never sell!"–L.S.
“I have been asked to sell my work, but no one wants to pay for the cost of the materials, let alone my time. So I keep it for myself, or give it as gifts.”
"I am afraid it would take the fun out of it when there would be quotas and deadlines. My hobby would become work."
Those who did sell their work often found rewards beyond the money, including friendship and self-confidence:
"I spent a day at a craft show with my beading club and sold one simple necklace. The best part of it was not the $15 sale, but the fellowship at the booth with fellow beaders."–Barbara Yelverton
"I was amazed! Someone else other than me actually loved something I made, wanted to own it, gave me money, and wore it."–Karen Swartz
Warning: Selling your work can be addicting!
"I went to an art fair and fell in love with a particular necklace. When I looked at the price, I almost fainted! I've always been pretty creative and decided I would try beading. I found a tremendous amount of help at my local beading store and was off and running! Made my first necklace and ladies at work started asking me to make items for them. One day, I complimented a friend on a necklace she was wearing, and it turned out to be one I'd made for her quite some time ago! That's when I knew I was hooked."–Suzanne Hines
Current Poll: Do you listen to music while you bead? So far the "yes" group is winning! What do you think?
Michelle Mach is the editor of Beading Daily. She loved all the helpful hints from readers about selling your work and will be sharing more of them in an upcoming newsletter.