Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What they say about misery

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
I was feeling smug recently. I know, how unlike me.

It didn't last long of course.

It started with a couple of discussions on Facebook. About bead sales. Because that is my life at this 10 seconds of the universe unfolding.

The first was about whether people noticed a monthly pattern for sales being better or worse. As usual, there were all sorts of theories. Weekends are slow. Weekends are good. The latter half of the month is better. The third week of the month is best. There are no patterns. There is absolute unpredictability.

My takeaway though was that sales were not steady for most of the conversants. There's always someone who claims to sell everything she lists. And I know that is true for some people. But not for most.

The second conversation was along similar lines. An artist who is established, well-known and in my estimation, successful commented that she was having trouble selling her focal beads, even at ridiculously low prices.

Lots of commenters said that sales were slow in general right now. One voiced my thoughts about the market being saturated, adding "buyers have so much stock of our prior sales - they aren't buying."

Another seller chimed in, "there are more sellers beads available but buyers have to sell their goods too or they won't buy more beads."

A buyer jumped in with, "I have so many beads from all of you fabulous artists that I have in fact stopped buying more until some beaded jewelry sells." Another buyer immediately seconded that, saying "those bead market Facebook groups caused a buying frenzy [in the] last year or two and a lot of jewelry makers (myself included) have spent out and overstocked." A third said, "I'm a bead buyer and jewelry designer ... sales are circling the drain."

The consensus was that the whole jewelry industry is slow right now, and the standard reasons given: tax season, Obamacare and the election year. Although I have no clue how Obamacare affects bead buying or jewelry sales or a lot of other things for which fingers are pointed at it.

A couple of other comments are worth noting. Another long-time and widely-esteeemed beadmaker said, "sales are slower for me than they ever have been - even slower than when the market crashed back in 2008." And another maker sadly said "thanks for bringing this subject up. I thought it was just me. I love the quick turnover in the Facebook groups, but I'm selling for half the price."

I started to type a response along the lines of, stand firm, don't lower your prices, that just hurts you and everyone else. But I have always defended the position that pricing is a personal decsion, that no artist owes anything to the bead community as a whole with regard to pricing, and that if you want to sell your beads cheaply or give them away, it's your call.

So I kept my typing fingers shut.

The reason I was feeling smug was that I'd just had a little flurry of sales. I was doing OK in a down market, for fifteen minutes anyway. In theory at least, I've set my prices, I've drawn the line, and either my beads sell or they don't.

And if they don't, well, I have lots of company, and you know what they say about misery.

Part of the latter discussion was about whether Etsy was worth considering again as an alternative to Facebook. I did weigh in there.
I let my Etsy bead shop expire, then recently started building it up again, and I've had quite a few sales including some from "old" customers. I think a lot of artists abandoned Etsy for Facebook after all the mass-produced brouhaha - so now might be a good time to try it. Especially since you already have taken the photos, written the descriptions and measured the beads.
And wouldn't you know, three days after her post, the original artist had this to say. "In case anyone else was considering it - listing on Etsy has worked out well."

Misery is a jealous bitch.

I took a peek at the artist's Etsy shop and she had sold six focal beads. Still, it doesn't take much to stick a pin in my smugness balloon.

One of the other interesting comments echoed some of my less charitable thoughts. "It's very discouraging sometimes to see some focals being [bought] at $165 a shot." But then the poster when on to say, "I don't begrudge these artists for what they are getting for their beads because they are truly AMAZING."

She was talking about artists like this one, who, by the way, I greatly admire and would love to own one of her beads but not enough to pay what she is asking.

I don't begrudge them either, begrudge is not the right word, but it does underscore that some buyers still are buying, some customers still have money to spend or high credit limits. Not all buyers are buying to make jewelry to resell. Some buyers are collectors.

Even collectors have their limits though. I know because I'm one. And while I still look at certain artists' beads with yearning, I've lost a lot of my "having" urge.

My customers for the most part aren't collectors. Sure, there are some, some who have bought many beads from me (and others) and as far as I can tell have not made any jewelry. If they do, they aren't selling it on Facebook, or modeling it on Facebook or showing-and-telling it on Facebook.

I do have a fair number of customers who sell on Facebook and tag me when they use my beads in their creations. I try to share their posts - because if they don't sell they don't buy more - and I try to buy from my good customers once in a while, not necessarily something made with my beads, although I have done that too.

Going back to the first discussion on Facebook that I mentioned, about monthly sales patterns, one person took the discussion in a different direction. She said this.
I find no pattern. I also tend not to even comment or read these posts normally, not to sound bitchy, BUT I do truly believe what you think about you bring about. Sometimes things dont sell as fast. We are making BUTTER items, luxuries. If I took [it] to heart every time I read one of these or similar posts in the last 15 years, I would be waiting tables. I have down days, I cry, I get frustrated and then I remember... surround yourself with those that inspire you. Believe in your work, work harder, learn something new.
She added another comment.
I wish I could remember who stated it, [because] it brightens my mood when I need it. "Dont ever underestimate your buyers' pockets. Do not devalue yourself." But no I don't find a pattern during the month that I have noticed, [it's] just usually harder when I NEED it.
I thought she had a point.
Point Laurie. There are some artists who sell everything no matter what the day of the month, mostly because their work is stellar. I work very hard at my art but all I can do is my best and you can't practice genius. I just keep trying, keep melting glass, keep listing beads.
She responded in a counterpoint to the over-saturation argument.
Another gem I got from someone way back when: "keep in their faces, keep putting it out there, they forget you really fast." And it's never a given, it's always work, learning, trying, every day.
I had to ask.
Laurie, is the flip side of "keeping in people's faces" overexposure? I worry about that. A lot of people already have a lot of my beads. Is the market limitless?
She thought so.
Is the market limitless??? YES! Overexposure? I don't think I have run into that with anyone, I can't personally say I'm sick of seeing so and so's work. And I truly believe there is a market for every price point and level. My intention with my first post was, if I say yes, I see a pattern, the beginning of month or end of month is slower, I am bringing that into my reality. And I'm trying really hard NOT to do that.
I got what she was saying, sort of. This is the last comment I made. [Riffing off N.D. Walsch, from Conversations with God.]
Life will show up for you no other way than the way you expect it to. So as of now, I am expecting a personal talent breakthrough and adoring customers with deep pockets!
Ah, if only it were that simple, to believe in yourself, to believe that all it takes is belief and it will be so.

At east I can be more intentional about it. I can try something new, and if it's not an immediate success I can try again, or try something else. I can shake off a bad torch day and a bad sales week. I can detach. Again. Because it's what I do, it's a process for me to let it go, not once and done. I can stop comparing myself, stop measuring myself, stop letting myself be affected when most of the comments I get are along these lines: "Love these colors! Wish I weren't out of bead money."

Unless or until I walk away, I can walk my own talk and keep trying, keep melting glass, keep listing beads.

I'm limited.
Just look at me.
I'm limited.
And just look at you.
You can do all I couldn't do.
So now it's up to you
For both of us.
Now it's up to you.

I've heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun.
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

Like a ship blown from it's mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you.

Because I knew you.

I have been changed for good.

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done
You blame me for

But then I guess
We know there's blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
(Like a ship blown from it's mooring)
As it passes a sun.
(By a wind off the sea)
Like a stream that meets a boulder
(Like a seed dropped by skybird)
Halfway through the wood.
(In a distant wood)
Who can say if I've been changed for the better.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.

And because I knew you.

Because I knew you.

Because I knew you
I have been changed
For good.

(Stephen Schwartz, Winnie Holzman)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz