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Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Note About Custom Orders

Many years ago, when I began selling my handmade jewelry designs on the internet, I started to get requests from people for special order items.  You name it - they came in - everything from pieces featuring particular saints, to family members to specific themes.  I wasn't sure if handling custom orders was the right thing for me to do at the time, but in hindsight, it ended up being a good move for me, business-wise.  In the 14 years I have been designing and selling  jewelry online, I'd have to estimate that nearly one-third of my retail sales are custom orders.  By accepting custom orders, I found that I was given "free" advertising and new business from people who'd order from me because they couldn't find exactly what they wanted in the marketplace.  Word of mouth spreads, and the next thing I knew, I began receiving orders from friends and family members of customers who wanted their own individually created jewelry pieces.

On EBay and Etsy, where I sell many of my designs, the custom order requests for loaded charm bracelets, domino pendants and wooden cross necklaces came in several times a week.  To accommodate these requests, I set up special "custom" listings for people to order these items through the sites without having to contact me first.  Upon checkout, they let me know the specification for their designs.

Custom loaded Catholic saint charm bracelet

Custom charm bracelet - Graveyard Angels

Custom charm bracelet - Graveyard Angels - detail


Sometimes, I've found that if one person is looking for something in particular, it results in additional sales to others.  For example, a person with the last name of "peacock" asked me to design some peacock-themed resin jewelry pieces for them.  I ended up getting numerous requests for peacock-related designs from others who saw the original design and I had a hard time keeping them in stock.

Custom peacock resin pendant

Custom peacock resin ring

Custom peacock resin earrings


The special orders I initially accepted have expanded into wholesale orders for businesses, as well.  Several years ago, the Director of the Jell-O Museum gift shop in New York purchased a pair of polymer clay Jell-O salad earrings from me on EBay.  This was the start of a regular business relationship for us.  The museum has provided me with specific images they want used in their jewelry designs; I make all of the Jell-O earrings for their gift shop and have been doing so for many years now.  I have expanded this to include novelty polymer clay candy piece earrings for a candy store in Pennsylvania, among other entities.

The Jell-O earrings that started it all for me with the Jell-O Museum gift shop in New York.

Jell-O earrings similar to those being sold at the Jell-O Museum gift shop.


The orders didn't stop there.  When St. Damien of Molokai was canonized as a Catholic saint in 2009, I was commissioned by the Catholic Church in Hawaii to make hundreds of St. Damien pendants for the state's canonization celebrations.  (A little side note about St. Damien - He ministered to the lepers of Hawaii in the late 1800's; he eventually passed away from leprosy himself in 1889.)

Saint Damien of Molokai pendants in process.


St. Kateri Tekawitha pendants in process for a St. Kateri Tekakwitha conference this summer.
St. Kateri Tekawitha wood cross necklaces in process for a St. Kateri Tekakwitha conference this summer.
Our Lady of Guadalupe polymer clay necklaces made for a church group in Texas.


Last week, I designed and made domino pendants and key chains for the Christian band, Third Day.  The dominoes featured images of the crucified Christ with the words of one of Third Day's songs imposed over them - "Cry Out to Jesus."  Needless to say, the band loved the designs.

Domino key chains and necklaces made for the Christian band, Third Day, June, 2014.

Domino necklace detail made for the Christian Band, Third Day, June, 2014.


All in all - if you create things as a part of your business and have pondered about whether to take custom orders - I'd say, "go for it".  Take it from me. You never know what it can do for your business and your sales. 




Monday, May 26, 2014

Polymer Clay Tutorial - How to Make Decorative and Functional Brooch Backs

It's been a while since I've shared any tutorials here. I get quite a few requests pertaining to polymer clay and resin techniques - so, I thought I'd share one for making decorative and functional backing pieces for brooches.

Many years ago, I shared a technique I developed for making polymer clay brooches utilizing postage stamps in Stampington Publications' Belle Armoire Jewelry II.  I did not specifically address how to design the back of the brooches at that time and would like to do so today.  Brooches have never totally gone out of style, but they seem to be re-emerging as decorative pieces for accessories such as scarves and handbags.



That being said - onto the tutorial!

Tools/supplies:

Pre-baked polymer clay brooch
Pasta machine dedicated for clay use (optional)
Rolling pin dedicated for clay use
Texture sheet
Mini cookie cutter
Pin back finding
Polymer clay - 1/4 of a block
Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS)


Instructions:

Prepare polymer clay for use by kneading it between your fingers until it is workable.  Insert it through a pasta machine at the thickest setting; fold it in half upon removal from machine.  (If you don't have a pasta machine, roll out the clay with a rolling pin to approximately a 1/8" thickness.  Omit folding the clay in half.)







Place the clay on top of a texture sheet that has been spritzed with water or lightly dusted with baby powder to prevent the clay from sticking.  Use the rolling pin to press the clay into the texture sheet, pressing firmly.




Gently remove the clay from the texture sheet.  It should look something like this:




Lay the clay with embossed side laying face up on a protected work surface.  Make sure the cookie cutter is large enough to just cover the center of the pin backing without interfering with the pin mechanism.





Place the cookie cutter on top of the clay, and press it down firmly, just like you are using it to make real cookies.




Carefully remove the clay from the cookie cutter.



 Place the pre-baked brooch face down on the work surface.  Squeeze the TLS down the center length of the pin back finding.






Place the pin back finding on the back of the brooch, the TLS side facing down.  The pin may want to slide around, so work carefully.





Pick up the piece of clay that was cut with the cookie cutter.  Apply a squeeze of TLS on the wrong side of the clay...




...and set it down on top of the pin backing.  Press gently into place.



Put the brooch in a pre-heated oven and bake according to the manufacturer's instructions as directed based on the thickness of your piece.

OPTIONAL:  If desired, prior to baking in the oven, brush some Pearl-Ex powder onto the pin back for extra effect, as I did in the brooch used in the example.

And there you have it - a functional and decorative pin backing for your handmade brooch.

If there are any specific techniques you would like for me to share with you, please feel free to leave me a comment for me here on this blog, or email me at craftymule@yahoo.com.