Monday, 22 August 2016

Helenka White Design celebrates its 6th anniversary – It’s been a rocky road.

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.

My 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: )

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