Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Sell or Not to Sell?

by Jennifer VanBenschoten

"Earth Angel" Bead embroidery with Carnelian and Amethyst, sold at a science fiction convention in 2009
A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to submit some of my best beadwork for inclusion in a publication by Lark Books. The deadline came up pretty fast, and I had to get eight pieces of beadwork packed and shipped off to the photographer in the same day. As I sorted through my current inventory and the finished beadwork that I've kept for myself over the years, I realized that I haven't kept any of the really spectacular pieces of beadwork that I've made in the last two or three years!

I was a little heartbroken when I realized that some of my favorites - with focal pieces by Lisa Peters Art and Artisan Clay - are no longer in my own collection. But there's some satisfaction in knowing that they went to customers who will no doubt appreciate and care for them.
Once upon a time in our house, whenever I made a piece of beadwork, my husband would look at the finished piece and inevitably say, "So, are you going to sell that?" To which I would roll my eyes and tell him that I would have to think about it. Then when I relied on selling my finished beadwork and glass beads and pendants for my income right after I had my son, there was never any question in my mind: when I finished a piece, it would go out on my tables at the next farmer's market or craft show.

A keishi pearl necklace that I made as a gift to myself. I'm NOT selling this one!


But still, I had certain standards for selling a piece. First of all, the piece had to be PERFECT. And I mean perfect - no loose threads or threads showing on the beadwork, no beads out of place, comfortable to wear, no sharp edges on any of the fused glass, and all my bead holes had to be completely cleaned of bead release. 
I also wanted to make sure that I wasn't duplicating the work of anyone else. Obviously, it's never okay, ethically or legally, to sell a piece of beadwork that you didn't design without the artist's permission. That said, I just make it a rule that if I make up a piece of beadwork from someone else's design or pattern, I just won't sell it. 

And then there's always the emotional factor. If I get too attached to a piece of beadwork, I won't sell it. Last summer, just for the heck of it, I started putting out this square stitch choker that I called "The Thief". There's a story behind this piece: I started it a couple of years after the bead shop I owned with two partners fell apart. I worked on that piece for hours at night while working at various jobs that I didn't really enjoy to soothe myself after bad days at work. I finished it, adding the fringe, right after I found out I was pregnant with my son, when the exhaustion early in the pregnancy was so bad that I felt as though I could barely lift my arm to pull the needle through the beads. 
Well, last summer, I set it out at my first "big" art show over at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. I wasn't expecting too many sales that day, since it was a sort of cold and overcast day and there weren't many customers. Imagine my surprise when a woman, another artist, came over to my table and picked it up. She asked if she could try it on, and as soon as I saw her wearing it, I knew that I had made this necklace for her. She looked perfect in it! All it needed was a little adjustment in the length, which I did in just a few minutes while she shopped at the nearby farmer's market. 



While I was thrilled to see that piece find a good home (and was equally as thrilled with the balance in my bank account after its sale, since it was easily the most expensive piece on my table) it still made me a little sad to see that part of my life moving on. Given the chance now, I'm not so sure that I would have sold the piece.
Do you ever find yourself growing emotionally attached to your creations? How do you handle it? Do you make yourself sell every single piece that you create, or do you allow yourself to keep some good pieces for yourself to enjoy?
 

9 comments:

Janet Bocciardi said...

I've certainly felt like you a few times. Most pieces when I make them I love, but the greater percentage also lose that real pull on me after I start a new project. There are times though where I feel real strongly about it, because maybe the components have special meaning to me that I can't replace. I'll put it aside until I'm sure I want to sell it or keep it. I've also made deals with myself that if a piece doesn't sell in a specified period of time - it's mine! ; )

I feel best letting go of a piece when the person buying it feels I made it for them and their passion for it shows. Then you know it's going to be admired for some time to come.

Alice said...

Well I have a confession. I don't wear a lot of jewelry, but rather have a few go-to pieces in my small collection. So it's easy for me to let them go to a good home. Instead, I get rather attached to the handmade beads & components that are in the piece. I tend to hoard them because they are so beautiful and unique.

Your 'Thief' collar is stunning!!!! It seems it was meant for just the right person, who came along at just the right time.

Patty said...

I agree with Janet - all (ok, most) of my possessiveness melts away when a customer falls in love with the piece. I can't tell you how many pieces I've sold while wearing them. But I have a few pieces that I like to wear and will never put them out. Some are imperfect (but I love them just the same), and some I'm just mysteriously attached to.

Your necklace is beautiful! I can see why your customer had to have it.

MaCarroll Beads said...

I do get attached to certain pieces of jewelry that I create. I don't really wear handmade earrings since I have a special pair of diamonds that have story behind them and..... it's easy to just sleep in them and clean them in the shower LOL! I have been wearing some that I've made lately just to see if they hang right, feel right, etc. before I list them for sale. I do that with everything that I make just to make sure it works for me. I don't want to sell anything that is poking me, hangs too long, short, etc. If there are certain pieces I get attached to, I do one of two things, keep it or make one like it that I know I will keep for me. As for bracelets, I am not a big bracelet person unless they are a cuff or something like that, so parting with those isn't as difficult. I'm always admired that piece, Jen and I hope the owner wears if often :o) MaryAnn

Cynthia said...

I'm not good at letting go. I keep many of my creations, usually until I make another in the same color scheme, and then I choose to keep one and sell the other. But I have a couple that are made with some very special (to me) components that I know I will never let go of. Of course, it's bitter sweet when an old favorite sells, but mostly sweet!

Spirited Earth said...

good story..
i have a little stash of extra special beads and pendants, the kind i ask "how did That happen" when i open the kiln..they are added to my dragons hoard so that i may live with them a while, however sometimes i do let them go, made into gifts for special people or given away

mairedodd said...

i do not sell everything i make... this does not include things i want to keep for myself... i am starting to hang on to a few pieces that were more elaborate for submissions into special shows... one doesn't always have time to dedicate that much time to a piece (nor always have the inspiration that lies behind some of them)...
i find that anymore, if a piece feels like it is for me, it declares itself early... the rest i like to sell because the whole point is to make the connection with another person...
that thief necklace is really special - perhaps you will feel called to make another one at some point...

Mandy said...

Unless I set out to make something for myself, I would rather see everything enjoyed by someone who loves it and will take care of it. For me, if I'm wearing something, I can't admire the beauty of it because I can't see it, even a bracelet doesn't look right if you are looking at it on your wrist. What I don't agree with is when some artist wear their pieces a couple of times and THEN decide to sell the. I don't think that is right, but that's just me. :-)

Izzy said...

I make something and if I want to keep it I have to hide it from my husband or he fusses at me for not listing it in my shop. Unfortunately, I'm not good at hiding, especially when I put it on to wear out and he says "where did that come from" and I say "what?". =)

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