You fill in the blanks, first. Go ahead....tell me. What do you think?
A great idea?
A decent workspace?
Skill and good tools? Clean finish work?
What do YOU think? Please comment! I wish you would. ;-)
I believe that all of those things are primary, extremely important factors.
I would add that you also need:
If you do a great job and have a sturdy design, chances are great that whoever wears your design is going to enjoy it for a long, long time....if you use the 'good stuff' to make it.
THE QUALITY FACTOR
Quality work is NOT just skill and a good design coupled with meticulous finish work. ** You also have to use the best findings you can afford.** It's not worth putting all that time into something only to have the product fail because you went on the cheap with the stuff you used to make it.
Today's market is full of cheap product made of soft mystery metal and garish plating finishes. A quick peruse of Ebay will yield unbelievable deals on these sort of components, sometimes even with free shipping all the way from China!
It's hard not to be seduced!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
It's true, I am the owner of B'sue Boutiques and have a vested interest in the components trade. I've been selling findings for a very long time.
If have learned ANYTHING about what makes a good finding over these last 27 years I've plied my trade, I've learned there is no value in using junk to make jewelry.
That doesn't mean that you should work only in sterling and high-grade gemstones!
Many of the great designers of costume jewelry made back in the 20's-60's in the US, when costume jewelry had its golden hour, were first trained as fine jewelers. The best lines made good use of these designers' skills and gave them the best inventory to with which to work.
They chose specialty glass pearls with amazing coatings done in old-world ways; they selected only the best rich, low brass findings and then had them plated with fine, fine finishes that looked for all the world like precious metal. They used beautiful art glass cabochons made by German and Czech cottage industries, as well as the best glass beads on the market. They hand-set stones the same way jewelers set stones in precious metal, and they used lovely machine-cut stones with brilliant flash and sparkle.
That's why we still find so many lovely pieces in the antiques/vintage marketplace that are still in unbelievable condition.
This is a hand-beaded Coppola e Toppo from the collection of Cathy Gordon, made in the 1960's.
The following piece is brass with fine plating, and is also in Cathy Gordon's collection:
Of it, she says: Gilt metal collar by Luciana (Baroness Luciana Aloisi de Reutern). This necklace is probably from the early 1960s when she was designing in the Etruscan style including references to paintings by Bellini, in which the curl on the beard of one of the figures became the linear motif on this necklace. She was the first in Italy to make use of gold-plated hand-burnished brass.
These pretty flower brooches are marked Sandor. Care has kept them in like-new condition:
These pieces are made of brass, manufactured in the USA. Most of the stampings used to make this jewelry are still available.
To assure more success in designing:
When you craft your pieces, bring your A game to the work table. Your work will always improve with time, what you do today will only be better next year, if you view each piece you make as a challenge. If you can't progress on a piece because it's not flowing, put it aside. Don't finish it JUST to finish it. If you're mad at it or it's mad at you, so to speak, the piece itself will reflect your lack of heart and show that you lost interest in it.
Case in point....this one is just not working out for me right now:
It looked good when I first laid it out, but as I began to do the assemblage work, I went to far with it and it lacks good balance. I won't trash it, but instead of allowing it to plague me, I'm setting it aside til I can get a grip on a better way to go. If I have to, I will take it apart.
I don't want to sell anything I wouldn't wear myself or that feels intensely uncomfortable to wear.
Then....Try to do the best finish work you're capable of. Watch for things that aren't sealed, wires poking out, glue gobs, patina that didn't get distressed properly, etc. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT.....but just do your VERY best.
I have learned to be very careful when it comes to buying beads or findings from Big Box stores. Their huge coupons have a magnetic draw on the public. But are the components worth the money, even at the sale price?
Many are Chinese glass that is really weak and brittle. I've had to throw a lot of pearl strandage OUT after I bought it. This was because the color over the glass was so weak it would chip as you worked with it.
As for the metal, look it over well. I have found a few lines, such as the Tim Holtz line (it's manufactured in China), I don't mind using or selling as a vendor of components. I'll be honest, I've been gravely disappointed in much of the rest that's available. Some of the stuff is falling apart right on the card on the rack, in the store! Some I've ordered to have a better look at it, to consider it....and it arrived missing stones, chipped, coming loose.
Jordan and I had a very interesting a market research day not long ago. We visited ALL the major big box crafts stores that sell beads, findings, and mixed media product for jewelry making.
We discovered that most of the tools in big box stores are very low quality, and they cost as much as 30-40% MORE than ours do at B'sue Boutiques I daresay anyone tested any of those tools for performance before offering them in the store. The store buyer bought them for price.....the customer buys them with the coupon, for price.
The customer suffers. Sigh.
Also, many of the focal pieces offered in the Big Box crafts stores are made of soft metal, and the plating is just terrible. Some can be rubbed off with your finger, it's not even real plating and not even sealed. Finish work is very poor, molding of the component is not crisp, and enamel is too often applied unevenly. Those are things you should look for, if you are tempted to buy these findings. Also, many of the finishes have an 'off' color to them that will not match US finishes. Sometimes, frankly, that might not really matter....so many of us do mixed metals now. But just sayin'!....have a close look.
The fact is, even with the 40 or 50% coupon....in many cases our findings at B'sue Boutiques AS WELL AS at the many other US 'boutique-style' vendors of components, will still be lower online at boutique-style smaller vendors... than Big-Box store imported components that are on sale.
AND: the quality will be better. MUCH better.
Most smaller to mid-size US vendors that sell rich, low brass with good plating (and not all of it out there is good plating, it's still on you to do comparisons and see!) sell US brass that has a HISTORY in the design industry. The findings are tried and true. I can attest to that....I have been making jewelry with them for over two decades.
My work has come a long way from my first pieces. Sometimes I cringe when I see my old or early work. Recently a friend showed me a piece they saw with my signature for sale at Ebay, it was about 23-24 years old. It was AWFUL. Normally I'd probably buy something like that back just for the fun of it, but it was sooo bad, design-wise, I couldn't stand it!
Just the same, I used good stuff to make it. It endured almost a quarter of a century, as ugly as it was.
There's a ton more to be said about this subject, but I think you get the point by now.
**Choose your components carefully**.
Do you buy a bag of rotten apples, or do you check them over before you put them in your cart at the grocery store? Are you careful at the meat counter to choose a cut that's just right, or make sure the fish is fresh?
Use the same care when you buy findings, and your work will always be something you're proud to wear, share, gift or sell! ALWAYS buy the best you can afford, it will make doing your best work even better.