Name: Cynthia Deis
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is preparing a production space for the first time?
A: Get your studio or work space ready. Eliminate clutter and, if possible, move all personal business to another place. Treat your studio like a preschool classroom in that everything has a place and the bins or boxes are all labeled. Searching for the spool of chain or bag of beads to finish an order takes valuable time out of your workday and means you make less money on that order. If others will be working with you, make sure they have all the items they need and that they know where to go to replenish their stock. Also, when you are preparing your studio, think cheap! It would be easy to whip out the Ikea catalog and spend $12,000 on furniture, but that’s money you won’t get back and can’t spend to promote the business. Remember, most customers never see your studio. We always got our furniture at our local university’s surplus sales or at flea markets and painted the pieces white or cream for a cool, shabby, chic look.
Q: What are other ways to cut costs when doing production?
A: First, document your work. Many jewelry artists take great photos of finished jewelry, but very few take photos of their jewelry-making process. All the details about how you assembled something seem memorable to you at the time, but you can lose time and waste materials trying to re-create your work a year later. Take step-by-step photos with a digital camera set on the macro setting, and you’ll have a record you can rely on.
Save on shows by sharing costs. Show fees can add up. Consider sharing your booth with another artist whose work complements but does not compete with yours. My booth partners over the years have ranged from sweater designers and hatmakers to handbag and clothing designers. We split fees, had more fun during set up and break down than we would have alone, and had an extra set of hands to rely on when the customers were standing in line. Several of my best clients were introduced to me as they stood in the booth buying the other designer’s wares!
A lesson I learned the hard way: Buy only what you need! Beginning designers often invest more money than they need to in supplies.
Buying in bulk can save you money, but only if you use everything you purchase. I still have beads in my store that I purchased en masse “because the price was great.” That money has been tied up for ten years! You are better off spending a little bit more per bead to get just the right quantity than storing those extras for years to come.
Read the rest of Cynthia Deis’ interview in the Summer 2009 issue of Stringing magazine, page 96.