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Oy Ve! The Challenges of Custom Work

Posted by learntobead on April 14, 2020

CANYON SUNRISE for music artist attending awards ceremony. Piece had to reflect nature.

I am a jewelry designer, and have been doing custom jewelry design for over 30 years. It’s challenging. It’s fun. But it can be a headache. Here are some lessons I have learned which I want to share with you.

When I began my jewelry making career, one of the smartest things I did was take on repairs. I learned so much. With each repair, I was able to re-construct in my mind the steps the jewelry designer made when creating this piece of jewelry — choices about stringing materials, clasps, beads, and how to connect everything up. And at the same time, I could see where these choices were inadequate. I could see where the piece broke or wore down. I could question the customer about how the piece was worn, and what happened when it broke.

And with each repair, I gained more knowledge from yet another jewelry designer’s attempt to fashion a piece of jewelry.

All these repairs resulted in more self-confidence about designing jewelry and designing jewelry for others. And, just as important, it led to more custom work.

28 COINS NECKLACE for poker player, includes coin pearls and jade good fortune carving

When you do custom work, I think you need an especially steeled personality to deal with everything that can go awry.

First comes the fitting. You take some initial measurements, but after the piece is made, the perspective changes, and so do the desired measurements.

Then comes a lot of customer indecision — colors, lengths, beads, silhouettes, overall design. They have a sense of what they want, but often have difficulty articulating the specifics.

Or they want to use several gemstones, but want them all to have the exact same markings and coloration.

Or they want to use several colors which really don’t harmonize well with each other.

Or they want to use components which are not easily available.

And not to forget to mention the sometimes questionable taste.

Or the possibilities of infringement of other jeweler’s designs, when the customer wants you to re-produce something they saw in a magazine or on-line. Identically.

And then time-frame. Can I finish the piece by the time the customer wants it done?

SOUNDTRACK::Color for folk musician who wanted something similar to a piece worn by Alanis Morissette. Client wanted all these colors (with raspberry as the dominant color) incorporated into this micro-macrame piece.

We discuss pricing, where all-to-often many customers seem resistant to paying anything for my time, which for custom designed pieces, is considerable. I walk them through the detailed process ad nauseum so they get the gist of all the work involved.

And last, payment. It’s not so easy to get some people to pay.

I still do a lot of custom work. But I delay a bit, sitting down and actually constructing the piece. I have a lot of discussions with the client. If there are color or materials questions, I usually present the client only 3 colors or materials at a time, and ask them to choose which they prefer. Then another 3-at-a-time forced-choice exercise, until things get narrowed down.

I photo-shop a lot of images — different colors, designs, beads — with the client, and get a lot of feedback. As I assemble all the information, I sketch/photo-shop what a final piece might look like. I superimpose this image on a mannequin to show the customer what it might look like. I have the customer formally sign-off on a final design. And only then, do I begin to construct the piece.

I try to develop in my mind a type of behavioral profile on each client. I pay attention to the styles of clothing they wear, the colors, how much jewelry they wear, and what that looks like. I spend time asking where, when and how they will be wearing the jewelry. I ask if they any expectations about the reactions they want or expect from others, when wearing the jewelry. I try to elicit the reasons why they are purchasing this custom piece, and whether it is filling any gaps they perceive in their wardrobe. I try to get a sense of how elaborate or simple they want the finished piece to be.

I give the client a realistic deadline. If the client needs the piece sooner, we discuss right up front where I will need to make process changes, in order to meet the reduced deadline.

It’s important to make everything about the design process and my management steps which I need to take predictable and clear right up-front. I don’t want to present the client with any surprises.

I require a 50% deposit up front.

I agree to make some adjustments for 6 months after the customer has the piece in hand.

I have a .pdf Certificate of Authenticity which I sign and give to the client. I name each piece (and if it is part of a series, that series will have a name as well), and this information is included in the Certificate. The Certificate also states my 6-months of adjustments policy.

Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Oy Ve! The Challenges of Custom Work

The Importance of Self-Promotion: Don’t Be Shy

Are You Prepared For When The Reporter Comes A-Calling?

Don’t Just Wear Your Jewelry…Inhabit It!

Two Insightful Psych Phenomena Every Jewelry Designer Needs To Know

A Dog’s Life by Lily

Copyrighting Your Pieces: Let’s Not Confuse The Moral With The Legal Issues

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Design: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

Beads and Race

Were The Ways of Women or of Men Better At Fostering How To Make Jewelry

The Bridesmaid Bracelets

I hope you found this article useful. Be sure to click the CLAP HANDS icon at the bottom of this article.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft video tutorials online.

Add your name to my email list.

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