THE CHALLENGES OF CUSTOM WORK
How do you handle the challenges of doing custom work?
What lessons have you learned, that you might share with others?
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 it led to more custom work.
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.
Or they want to use several gemstones, but want them all to have the exact same markings and coloration.
Not 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?
We discuss pricing, where many customers seem resistant to paying anything for my time.
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 for 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 require a 50% deposit up front.
I agree to make some adjustments for 6 months after the customer has the piece in hand.