The other day I noticed that my jewellery business
Helenka White Design turns 6 in September. I actually had to check my FB page
to find out the exact date I created the page! The exact day is the 7th. The first incarnation of my website followed
in the same month or in October 2010 (I honestly can’t remember).
Like most crafters I started selling when friends
who received jewellery from me as a gift suggested I should sell my
designs. I got interested in jewellery
making in 2007 when I joined an evening class to learn silversmithing for a
year and I finished it with a City & Guilds certificate. I also got married
that year and in the run up to our wedding I made my own tiara and gifts for my
bridesmaids. I occasionally made jewellery, but not for sale.
As working with silver is not cheap – and if you
sell it you need to get it hallmarked as per law – and due to my chronic shoulder
pain I focused my jewellery designs on bead work in the first few years working
with semi-precious stones, seed beads, Swarovski crystals and other materials.
And then I discovered polymer clay. I first took a
day course with Alison Gallant after reading about her in Making Jewellery and
got hooked. Alison has become a friend of mine too and I also wrote an article
about her course for Making Jewellery (amongst other articles I have written).
It’s a fantastic medium to work with as it’s so versatile – you can mimic
semi-precious stones, sea glass, wood etc. It lends itself for making colourful
pieces and it’s surprisingly light weight when you’re wearing it. Since
discovering polymer clay I have attended 3-day long workshops and met famous
artists such as Donna Kato (who invented her own clay brand Kato Clay and has
written 2 seminal books about polymer clay) and Bettina Welker.
My website underwent two more makeovers, with last
year’s one being the website I always wanted. Because I love animals,
especially cats, I decided to niche down to cat jewellery. Of course I also
make other designs. I created my own logo, because why outsource something you
can do yourself?
I also started sculpting with polymer clay last year
and have now a whole range of animal sculptures on the website. I find
sculpting way more challenging than the jewellery as so much can and does go
wrong. And given the small scale it is often tricky to get it right. I keep
developing new sculptures and taking notes and photos as I go along – mainly
with the view to teach how to make them eventually.
Six years seem like a long time in business, but it
hasn’t been easy – and I still have to break even or make a sizeable profit
from the venture. I have learned the hard way what works and more importantly
what doesn’t. I have learned how soul
destroying craft fairs can be and that ETSY is not the right marketplace for my
one-of-a-kind pieces. I also learnt to use giveaways only occasionally and that
you need to really budget strictly for ads. This and the coming year I am
focusing on PR for my business and will continue developing new products such
as journal covers, more sculptures – and I want to get back to working with
sterling silver and PMC. A kiln is still on my wish list and if things work out
I can keep one in our newly tidied and painted garage.
three tips for making your business work:
- Be authentic, original and true to
yourself – if you don’t want to make run-of the mill popular things- don’t.
Leave the cheap Disney rip offs to others.
- Be super patient. For some people
success comes quickly – but who knows why. Maybe they had more money to invest
in the business? Your time will come.
- Make sure you really enjoy what you’re
doing. Unfortunately running your own business means you spend an awful lot of
time on admin and marketing. So finding time for the actual craft is important
and enjoying your craft is vital. If you feel you are losing your mojo – you
might want to check out my blog post on how to get it back. (blog link: http://www.helenkawhitedesign.com/jewellery/15-things-you-can-do-to-get-your-creative-mojo-back/