Friday, August 1, 2014

Use Your Words By Karen McGovern

“Nestled in the loving embrace of flame-warmed copper, colored to transport you to the misty Aegean Sea, a droplet of Byzantine Amethyst glows with mulberry fire…. “  BLARF.

Writing descriptions for jewelry designs is hard.  And sometimes ridiculous.  Those of us with online shops know how mind-numbing it can be to come up with readable, detailed yet interesting descriptions for our designs that are also enticing enough to COMPELL the reader to hit the ADD TO CART button.

Books have been written on the subject.  You can find online seminars about it.  You can also find HILARIOUS examples of over the top, worthy for romance cover illustration descriptions on just about any selling platform.  I will not link to any here, because I know how hard it is to write what is essentially a sales pitch to describe the work, and I know how easy it can be to slip from imaginative text to absolute drivel.  I look back at some of my descriptions used early in my selling career and I am painfully reminded of the episodes of Seinfeld that featured the J Peterman catalogue.  Remember the Urban Sombrero?????

Anyway, there is romance and emotion associated with jewelry.  It’s personal, often given as a declaration of love or intention.  It’s passionate and yes, dramatic.  BUT, that doesn’t mean that every description needs to be a verbal teleportation to nirvana via a pair of drop earrings—or a hat.

"Devastating brim" made me squirt milk out of my nose...okay, it was wine, but whatever. LOL

Here’s my take—First, I flesh out a simple description that answers questions the reader will have.  What is it made of?  What kind of metals?  What are the gemstones (real names, please, no references to unicorn tears or sunsets on Jupiter), and is the design treated or sealed with anything?  THEN, embellish.  Tell a little story if you want about your inspiration in making the design.  If you are a raging freak for turquoise, say so.  If you found the gem or inspiration on a special trip or visit to the world’s funkiest flea market, mention that.  If you wrote a poem inspired by the piece, include it.  Bottom line, I believe that our clients enjoy—and appreciate—connecting with us on a personal level.  Getting a glimpse of who we are, how we think, what inspires us—that’s not just a selling point, it’s authentically SHARING, which is what we do every time we create, right???  Use your own voice.  If it sounds stilted or forced to you--it is.  Mary Jane Dodd is the MASTER of using her voice freely in her listings.  She writes gorgeous poetry and verse to go with her designs and I have been left breathless on more than one occasion.  She is amazing.  And singular.  As in, I would never try to do that in a million years.  As in, I am green with envy.  Sigh.  She's great, and just like what she writes, her works are so---HER.  You know her work on sight, instantly.  I just bought my first design from her, and the description reads in part:

"'earth is what we all have in common.' wendell berry
pearls for the sea
honey calcite for the sun
stones for the earth
and leaves, stitched in silk

this talisman started with the double sided stitched pouch - i wanted you to be able to keep that which you treasure close to your heart. or perhaps that which you need on any given day - a word, a stone, a picture. our needs change.

my stitch work is inspired by nature and mandalas
mandalas are symbolic of the universe and our relation to infinity
nature representing growth and the full cycle of life.

we walk the earth for a short time - to do so unawakened is tragic.
both for yourself and for all others.
you have gifts to share"

LOVELY!!! And bear in mind, not every design we create is epic.  It’s perfectly okay for a description to read something like:  “Copper patina disc earrings created with hand forged sterling silver ear wires.”  THE END.

The design photograph takes front and center stage anyway.  If your layout and images rock, the rest is icing on the cake, but you might as well make the cake as tasty as you can, right?  Just not tooth-decay, nausea inducing sickly-sweet cake.  More like a really good flourless chocolate cake....mmmmmm....cake.  Wait, what were we talking about?
Beautiful homeless Free People
Catalogues that jump to mind skating the razor’s edge of inspiring vs CRAP are Free People and Sundance Catalogue.  I love both.  Visually they are stunning and drool-worthy (I basically hand my paycheck over to Free People at least once a month).  Occasionally the text and images are just….too much.  I know they are representing a quasi-fantasy lifestyle (who are we kidding--it's total fantasy), but it can be a bit overwhelming.  My husband refers to the Free People catalogue as the “rich homeless people catalogue”.  While it’s perfectly okay to make fun here, I certainly don’t want someone feeling the same way about how I present my works. That would really bug me, because I am not like that.  I try to be authentic in how I present and write about what I create.

But that is my opinion.  I don’t live in a dream world of diffused lighting and I don’t wear artfully distressed leather boots with my flowing silk maxi dress (I prefer be-dazzled Keds with my formal wear).  That being said, we are all offering a feeling along with our work--that's what art does.  Art imparts attitude and emotion.  I want what I offer to be real.  I want my clients to feel like they “get” what I am trying to say with the design, and hear my "voice" in their head.  It’s very subjective, and different for each and every artist/designer.

How do you convey your intent in the text associated with your work?  Are you a story-teller or a bare-bones “just the facts” lister?  What gets your attention as a buyer?  Short and sweet or chapter and verse?  I’d love to hear your opinions….


Nana Louise Nielsen said...

Lol Karen. You are so right. You describe the dilemma so well.

Add to the mix that we are also trying to add those magic keywords that people might search for or someone making that front page treasury is looking for - and you have a complete mishmash of words and I sometimes feel like I just made porridge out of them all and dumped a spoonful in the description box.

Conveying that feeling and what inspired you to make this particular piece is vital I think for a genuine connection and maybe if we are honest enough to deliver all this with tongue in cheek our customers will forgive us for using high-floating mumbo jumbo :oD

Kelli said...

Miss Karen, I want to write like you when I grow up!!!!!!! SO funny! And so relevent, as I'm in the middle of listing jewelry for the very first time. Apparently I'm bare bones...although as the nights get later and later, I find myself giving them silly names...channeling Mary AnnCarroll, evidently, as she Iis the master at that. Great post!!!!!!!!

Carol Dekle said...

Hi Karen! For me it depends on the piece. Sometimes I am inspired by a design and the name just pops up. Other times, though, I just keep it simple and call it what it is. "Rich homeless people catalogue." Funny husband you have there!!

mairedodd said...

karen i always love your articles. and i am so deeply appreciative of your kind words. descriptions can be so difficult. and it has taken me years to find a way of listing that doesn't feel forced or robotic. and you are so very right about the simpler ones - they can almost be harder.

Lora Lee said...

Thank you for this post. I needed to read that. Writing descriptions is so hard sometimes. Especially when I'm working on something that just randomly popped in my head. I didn't dream about it or aspire to be extra creative in it, its just a simple easy design I wanted to see in person...Sometimes there are no words for that kind of work, so it ends up bare bones. But then you have those Ah ha moments when something a vision you woke with first thing in the morning turns into a beautifully crafted piece by night...those I can tell an amazing story with. I just go with what ever feels right with the piece. :) Love the rich homeless people hahahaha. I too love their photos!

Shirley Moore said...

Well, I would definitely love to write poetry about my designs, but I think if my personality were to shine through, there would be a joke in there somewhere. I love to make people laugh,and I would hope that would make them connect with me just a bit.
Great article!

Shaiha said...

Thank you so much for the tips. I am just now trying to sell through my FB group and having a heck of a time with the descriptions.

Jen Howell said...

I love this post! Some of these artists, catalogs and shops really do put a little too much effort into their descriptions. I personally put the necessities and let others read into it how they'd like, but I also don't really get inspiration for jewelry by looking at sunsets, or any other inanimate object. My ideas kind of just come to me. I feel like I could put a bit more of a description, but I usually lack the inspiration :p

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