Custom Button Jewellery

I’ve added a new feature to my button jewellery site – my wire button necklaces, bracelets and jewellery sets are now available with customisable colours which you can pick out from my colour palette.

Button Jewellery Colour Palette

First you can select your type of jewellery – you can get just a necklace, just a bracelet, or various different jewellery sets (I’ll be adding a few more variations soon). Then you can pick up to five different colours from drop-down menus, and even select your wire colour if you want to – or you can leave this up to me.

Custom button jewellery set

If you want to discuss the colours in more detail, want more than five colours or a different bracelet or necklace length, I can do that too – just send me an email and I can make further customisations too.

Unique Bright Button Necklaces

Here are some of my recent bright button necklace designs. Each is unique, made with vintage buttons and multistrand wire. Some of these have already sold, but there are a few left, which are for sale on my button necklaces page.

Jigsaw Puzzle Necklaces and Earrings

These jigsaw puzzle necklaces are made with Japanese washi paper over jigsaw pieces, to form unusual necklaces:

Jigsaw Puzzle NecklaceJigsaw puzzle necklace: £28, Unexpected Boutique

There are also some matching earrings:

Jigsaw EarringsdWashi Jigsaw Earrings, £10, Unexpected Boutique

Japanese washi paper is a beautifully decorated paper which is often used for origami, but here it has been repurposed to create ornate and eye-catching jewellery. The combination of washi paper and jigsaw pieces is a surprising juxtaposition, and on top of that, the edges are decorated with ink “stitching” to make them look a bit like sewed-on patches. So it is a jigsaw, some origami, or the start of a patchwork quilt?

Two Upcycled Charm Necklaces

…aaaand we’re back. I’ve finished moving house. Not finished unpacking, but all the things have been extracted from the old place and put into the new one.

Because I apparently have unusual priorities, rather than deal with the large pile of assorted items that has gathered in the corner of my new jewellery-making studio (sample: coathangers that I don’t want, an old Swan kettle, some sofa cushions which my mother inexplicably bestowed on me, massive roll of bubblewrap, a collection of Fairport Convention memorabilia, giftwrap, an inexplicable map of Birmingham) I have put some pictures of my latest necklaces onto the internet.

Talking of piles of miscellaneous objects, this is what these necklaces are made from. After I had declared my shops closed after the last Christmas rush, as a little reward for myself, I got out some boxes of old broken jewellery that I’d been hoarding for a few years, spread all the bits out on the floor, and picked out the best bits to turn into new upcycled charm necklaces.

Most of the time, as I’m making a living from jewellery-making, I have to make sure I can make multiples of each piece that I design – otherwise the time I spend photographing, processing and uploading each item becomes too much and can’t make things fast enough. I do make a few one-of-a-kind items, and I’d like to do more of this, but at the moment with the way my shops are set up I don’t get the opportunity very often.

So after frantically making lots of my stock designs over and over for people’s Christmas shopping, I wanted to make something completely different and unique, without worrying about whether I could reproduce anything similar ever again – it was a little no-strings-attached creative break for me.

Here are the two necklaces I made:

Bronze Upcycled Charm Necklace
Bronze Bohemian Charm Necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique

Silver Upcycled Bohemian Charm Necklace

Silver Bohemian Charm Necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique

Quirky Jewellery

If you’re tired of wearing the same old conventional jewellery – gemstones, pearls or silver, for example – and want to compliment your outfit with statement jewellery, something a bit more quirky or unusual – the place to go is the Unexpected Boutique. My unusual jewellery shop specialises in necklaces, bracelets and earrings made from materials that aren’t usually associated with jewellery – for a quirkier look, exchange your pearl necklace for a button necklace, your gemstone bracelet for a dice bracelet, and your gold earrings for safety pin earrings.

Button Necklace

Brown and orange button necklace, £20, Unexpected Boutique

Dice Bracelet

Black and white elastic dice bracelet, £12.50, Unexpected Boutique

Safety Pin Earrings - Gold

Gold and green safety pin earrings, £10, Unexpected Boutique

Moving House…

Everything’s been a bit quiet on here for a while – for good reason, as I’m moving house at the moment. Currently half of my stuff is in York, and half in my new home in County Durham – but all my jewellery-making things and stock are together in the new place, so orders are going out as normal. (I now live even closer to the Post Office, and in the countryside too, which means there are shorter Post Office queues – makes my life a lot easier…) In between all the furniture-wrangling and sorting, it’s quite a nice little break to put some jewellery in an envelope or make a necklace, actually!

Anyway, in case you were wondering what’s become of the May newsletter and the May prize draw for some stud earrings, please bear with me – the winner will be announced very soon!

White Button Stud Earrings

Inge in Germany wrote to me and asked if I could make some white stud button earrings to match the black ones I already make. The 9mm black button studs are one of my most popular pieces of jewellery, but for some reason I had never got round to making white ones before now. Anyway, I got hold of some matching white buttons, and this was the result:

Stud Button Earrings

I guess that probably looks like four buttons just resting on some foam in a gift box, but actually they look like this:

White Button Stud Earrings

And you can now buy them here!

Quick Note for RSS Subscribers

If you don’t know what the title of this post means, don’t worry – you don’t need to do anything. (Although if you’re curious, you can read this…)

If you do know what I’m talking about, and are a current RSS subscriber, please update the feed address that you subscribe to for this blog to http://www.helenmakesthings.co.uk/feed/ if it isn’t set to that already.That’s all.

Since Google are getting rid of their RSS reader service, it won’t surprise me if they ditch Feedburner (which I put my feed through) too pretty soon – so I’m moving all my feeds to default back to the native WordPress ones so that I OWN THEM and Google can’t mess things up for us all later on. Just in case, y’know…

Handmade Jewellery: Selling on Etsy/Folksy/DaWanda, or Your Own Site?

Deciding where to sell handmade jewellery: this may cause you to Panic and Freak Out. But no, don’t! Just make a cup of tea, and read this…

People sometimes ask me whether it’s better – for someone who is starting out making their own jewellery or other handmade craft – to sell from their own website, or instead to sell via a third party marketplace that specialises in handmade goods.

The short answer is that I think it’s good idea to do both, simultaneously – if you can make your marketplace as broad as possible, that’s bound to result in more sales.

However, there are good and bad ways to attempt both strategies, advantages and disadvantages to each, and there are some ways in which the type of person you are may influence which one it’s best for you to start using first.

There are, of course, some universal factors that will help sell your jewellery or other handmade goods regardless of where and how you try to sell them: excellent product photos are essential (and, as I’ll mention later, it can be particularly helpful to follow a certain format for these when selling on Etsy). And obviously you’ll need to be making high-quality products that you think people will like, and will want to buy. If you make necklaces from the eyes of dead rabbits preserved in resin, sure, there’s probably a niche market for that, but it might be quite tiny, so if you’re after a lot of sales that may not be your best initial product range…

Selling from your own website: some advantages

  • Once the potential customer has arrived on your website, they are browsing exclusively through your products. They can’t easily be led away to look at a competitor’s product on the same site, as they easily can on a third party site such as Etsy (although, as I’ll mention later on, the inverse of this is, of course, also true).
  • You can completely customise the look and feel of the site – if you know how, or pay a web developer to do so
  • You or your web developer have full control over the search engine optimisation content – this can have a huge effect on how much traffic you get
  • You don’t have to pay listing fees – you can list the products yourself, [hopefully!] free of charge. (If you’re having someone else make your website, whether editing it on your own will be possible in future is an important thing to check. There are many content management systems that will allow this without knowledge of HTML and other web coding languages, so if you don’t want to have to pay your web developer each time you edit or add a product, make sure they’ll provide something that will let you edit your product listings easily yourself.)

Selling on Etsy / Folksy / DaWanda: some advantages

  • As well as marketplaces, these are also social networks – particularly Etsy. This gives you the opportunity to network with both other creators and with buyers – you can add them to your circle, promote each other’s work, discuss techniques via a forum – all within the site’s built-in functionality.
  • Even if you’re not into the social side, if you have nice products with good photographs, the chances are that someone else might include on of them in a “Treasury”. This is a collection of other people’s listings, picked out by a member, which you’ll often see featured on the front page of the site. Being included in a Treasury means many more people will see your items. The first time I tried Etsy, I was just starting out, had no-so-great photos, and this only happened to me once. Now I have much better photos (and I’m not talking about those awkward lo-res web cam shots up there, of course – more like this kind of thing) I’ve been featured in over 100 Treasuries in just a few months – not to mention making far more sales than the last time.
  • People who arrived on Etsy via someone’s else’s Etsy shop may browse for similar items, and find yours that way (of course, this does also happen the other way round, too!).
  • Some people will shop on a handmade marketplace as their default, one-stop shopping stop when they’re looking for gifts, jewellery etc. They’ll skip Google and go straight to Etsy, DaWanda or Folksy, so if you have products listed there, some people who might never have otherwise found them (especially if your site doesn’t come up very high in Google’s search results) may do so.
  • It’s really easy. You don’t need any web design knowledge, as all of the marketplaces come with easy to use, aesthetically pleasing shop fronts into which you just add photos, descriptions and a banner or logo.

Selling from your own website: some disadvantages

  • If you want to be found by search engines, you or someone else will have to put a bit of work in to make sure that your site shows up in search results. Search Engine Optimisation isn’t actually difficult, but some people seem baffled that they can put a website up and make no sales at all because nobody ever finds it. Having good SEO is one of the essentials to selling online.
  • There is substantial work involved in making the website in the first place: I enjoy doing this, as I already know how, but it’s not for everyone! You can either learn to do it yourself (time-consuming, and who knows whether you’ll come up with a good design? Horrible-looking, hard-to-navigate websites are a sure way to put customers off immediately) or pay a professional. Or there are some ready made website templates available, some of which are free, and some of which are not. Some are good, some are bad. Self-hosted WordPress (free, but sometimes needs some tweaking) and Mr Site (paid) are the ones I’d recommend.
  • You are not automatically plugged into a ready-made and populated marketplace – again, you have to put in a bit of work to build up your own brand. However, I like this aspect. Having a site that looks exactly how I want, rather than a non-customisable Etsy shop – definitely appeals to me.

Selling on Etsy / Folksy / DaWanda: some disadvantages

  • There’s a lot of onsite competition. Instead of having people browse your products on your site, they browse everyone’s products on the entire site. However, make your shop distinctive enough, and fill with enough different-but-related products that you will keep people’s attention, and this isn’t necessarily a problem.
  • There’s also competition on price, as some makers might price very low if making things is their hobby. I find that it’s best to ignore other people’s prices, though. Set them at what you think is reasonable, rather than trying to undercut other sellers. (For example, there are some people selling button stud earrings for as little as £1 on Etsy. However, they are probably not made with sterling silver findings, which mine are, and the buttons are maybe not as appealing as the ones I use – so I still sell plenty of mine for £6. Some people want to spend more money, anyway!)
  • You don’t get much control over optimising for search engine results, Etsy’s own search results, or the appearance of the shop. However, you can maximise the possibilities by writing good, keyword-rish descriptions and including lots of good tags on your listings.
  • There’s always, you know, that tiny chance that you might end up on Regretsy… (If you’re the one making the resin-preserved dead rabbit eye jewellery, there’s actually more than a tiny chance.) But all publicity is good publicity, right?

Where you start should depend on which appeals to you most, and where your skills lie – web design and SEO, or social marketing? if you want to place heavier emphasis on the former, try your own site; for the latter – an online marketplace may suit you better. (And you can have an additional presence on any social media channel, whichever route you try first.)

Building a shop, web presence and – of course – a collection of products to sell takes time and work, so whichever approach you choose, you’ll need to bear in mind that you have work to do before it really takes off. Good luck!

Frugal Fashion: Things You Forgot You Had

This frugal fashion tip is really, really frugal. As in: it’s completely free, there is no finance involved, you don’t have to sew or craft anything, you don’t need to spend long doing anything and it isn’t at all difficult.

Several times in my life, going through my wardrobe, I’ve decided that I needed to have a clearout (as we all do, from time to time). But, as a cautious person by nature, sometimes I haven’t been completely and immediately ruthless on the clothes I wasn’t too sure about – you know, that method that all those life-laundering gurus recommend. Sometimes I’ve thought, “I’ll put this to one side in a drawer somewhere, and if I haven’t thought about it, needed it or wanted to wear it in, say, six months, then I will take it to the charity shop/sell it on eBay/recycle it in a sewing project”. So I’ve hidden some clothes away somewhere that I don’t usually look, to keep them out of the way.

This does a number of things – the first is that with all the clothes I’m not so sure about out of the way, it seems like my wardrobe is filled entirely with clothes I really like. How this relates to the concept of frugal fashion is that if I feel that I have plenty of clothes I like, I’m less compelled to go shopping, because of that “nothing to wear” feeling that can be caused by the not-so-great clothes diluting the totally-great ones. So I’m less likely to spend money on new clothes if I’m enjoying my existing garments.

The other thing that happens, sometimes, is that when I dig out the old clothes I put away to see whether I’m serious about giving away, selling or recycling them, is that after a while not wearing them, I might see them differently, think of a different way to wear them, or else decide that I do like them again having not seen them for a while. (Or, of course, I’ll decide I really don’t have a use for them – but it seems about 50/50 which is going to happen…) There are clothes I have now which I’ve been on the verge of giving away or put into the fabric pile which, after a break, I find I wear quite often now. Saved by the frugal-fashion-incubation-process…

P.S. This system also works pretty well with jewellery.