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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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What's Next for Jewelry Making?

Kristal Wick, Jill Mackay and Katie Hacker have the answers. 

by Staff Report (January 4, 2010)

CLN: Jewelry-making has grown tremendously in recent years. Do you see continued growth, a decline, or a leveling off for 2010?

WICK: I believe jewelry-making is still in growth mode for 2010. With more crafters crossing over into the jewelry-making market and mixed media on the rise, weíll see this reflected in the consumer demand for more innovative products, books, and classes. Jewelry-making is also a rather unusual anomaly; I believe its popularity is tied in with how easily accessible the components and techniques are. Everyone looks good in jewelry no matter their size, color, or profession. You can't say that about many things! Someone who has gained weight may not be clothes shopping much this year, but she still looks good in jewelry and will continue buying components to make more.

MACKAY: I think jewelry making has been on an evenly paced steady increase for many years, not just in recent years. It has been happening out in the world steadily with individuals, bead stores, and shows. When we, the large community of jewelry makers, glass bead artists, beaders, metalsmiths, and those who sell the materials to make it all possible, reached enough of a critical mass, then the craft chain stores jumped on the bandwagon, which results in changes showing a tremendous increase in popularity.

HACKER: Jewelry making continues to grow as a mainstream craft category, although at a slower pace than in recent years. Whether it continues steadily or levels off for a bit really will depend on our ability to entice new beaders while continuing to serve hardcore enthusiasts.

CLN: Has anything about the market surprised you in the past year?

WICK: Iíve been surprised by the outrageous number of knock-off products and product lines seen across the market. Itís always been a fact, but Iíve definitely seen an increase this past year.

CLN: It appears that the hard-core enthusiasts Ė knitters, scrappers, etc. Ė aren't buying as much this year. Are you seeing that with beaders? Is there a growing sense of pent-up demand?

HACKER: I do see people using their stashes and trying to buy things when they're on sale, but I don't necessarily see a sense of pent-up demand.

MACKAY: We bead and jewelry freaks buy whether we need to or not. This is a proven phenomenon: you can never have enough beads. It's an affliction/addiction that brings with it a great pleasure, sort of like looking for and playing with treasures. Jewelry making is faring better than some crafts, better than many actually. I'm not connecting with nor seeing the pent up demand thing.

One of the main goals in the jewelry component and finding lines that I design, license, and manufacture with Darice was to bring up the quality and originality of the affordable base metal findings available in the craft marketplace. Better products in the less expensive materials means meeting demands for all customers.

WICK: Iíve noticed the beaders seem a bit more thoughtful and conservative in their spending but still NEED THAT NEW STRAND or a bit of bling! There is more re-purposing and using items from their "stash" at home. This is why I developed some of my 2010 classes based on introducing new applications using existing fabrics, fibers, and other mixed media elements.

Iím still seeing consumers purchase those "must have" impulse or specialty items, although not as frequently. This is why I believe itís key to incorporate classes/events to teach a new technique where they can re-purpose their stash AND add new items. If classes are planned and launched properly, the consumer will use both; itís not an either/or decision.

CLN: If the enthusiasts are using their stash rather than buying as much, do you have any advice for retailers on how to inspire beaders to use up their stash more quickly so they resume buying more?

MACKAY: Carry more educational materials. Sell books of various formats and sizes, sell magazines, and give away free project sheets.

I think education is critical. Keep your customers growing! Give them access to the educational materials they need to continue to increase their knowledge, enhance their skills, and add to their techniques. Do so in noticeable, convenient ways. Be creative, have a book signing, bring in the author, add a class in relation to the signing.

HACKER: The keys here are offering things that are new and different and giving consumers as many ideas as possible for compelling ways to use them.

CLN: Most categories Ė scrapbooking, cross stitch, etc. Ė show strong growth, then settle down and become a steady category. But it seems jewelry-making runs hot, then cold, then hot, then cold, etc. Any idea why?

WICK: I think the economy has a lot to do with jewelry trends. When product prices increase and paychecks decrease, folks make more of their own jewelry instead of buying finished jewelry. They think it is less expensive to make jewelry, but as we know, the key is to get them hooked! Once they go there, there is no going back and you have a customer for life who canít get enough. And as far as making your own jewelry being less expensive, ha! Ask any jewelry maker how big their bead stash is.

HACKER: Jewelry is very tied to fashion, and various elements of jewelry making have historically reflected what's popular in the fashion world (look at the 70s obsession with macrame or the more recent explosion of crystals). Jewelry making also holds its own in tough economic times because people are looking for inexpensive ways to update their wardrobes or make gifts, and it has the added advantage that beaders can sell their creations to pay for their hobby.

MACKAY: I don't believe that the jewelry category has run hot and cold. I believe jewelry making has been on a nice steady climb for quite some time now. If you are following the CHA research which is provided by a company I am legally not at liberty to state without their written permission, then I will ask that you would please notice that in the summer of 2008 they reported that jewelry making was up 14% compared to the year before. Six months later at the end of the year study they reported it down 31%. In the 2009 report they are saying it is back up 21% compared to the year before. So does this mean it's actually still down 10%?? I'm bad with numbers.

To make it more complicated, the research separates jewelry making and beading crafts and put them both under General crafts. Though the real issue is they report to have an error rate of 21-27%. This leaves me feeling very unsure about the data; in my opinion this is just not reliable. I rely on many other factors and contributors when watching the marketplace. Please don't get me wrong, I do appreciate that CHA is trying to provide the most accurate data out there; as there is very little available and they should be congratulated for doing so. It is very important.

(Editor's Comment: The problem with CHA's research regarding any single category is mathematics: The survey group (thousands) for overall statistics is large enough so the error of measurement is small, like in those presidential surveys during the election. However, when that group is divided into beads, knitters, crafters, etc., each group is relatively small. The smaller the group, the larger the error of measurement. It would cost CHA a fortune to survey thousands of beaders, plus thousands of painters, and thousands of cross-stitchers....)

CLN: How has the economy affected jewelry-making (i.e., more wire/fewer beads, smaller necklaces, less silver and gold)? Do you see more beaders selling their creations?

HACKER: The price of metal has been going up for several years now, so there has been a trend in recent years toward using more plated findings. There are also a lot more good quality plated findings on the market than there used to be, so it is easier for jewelry makers to get the quality they expect in a less expensive product. Crystals will continue to rise in popularity because they feel luxurious without a luxury price tag.

WICK: I see a definite increase in beaders selling their jewelry at home parties and online (such as Etsy.com). And it seems as if there is a trend to mix less expensive components such as wire with higher-end items, making the overall piece less expensive in total. Many jewelry makers are switching from using all sterling silver findings to copper and base metals.

MACKAY: Wire is definitely selling well, and if you look at the sheer number of artisans selling jewelry-making supplies or finished pieces in their stores on etsy.com it's remarkable.

The economy is redefining the luxury market and affecting the jewelry trends. Recently in one of the high-end luxury jewelry trade magazines I saw leather and diamonds, and I saw recycled rubber and diamonds together (it actually looked great). The price of gold has made silver far more popular due to price point alone.

Jewelry making continues to grow for many reasons; saving money is just one of the lesser reasons. Mainly people make jewelry because it is pleasurable to do so. With all that is available in the market place (and out of our stashes) we continue to make jewelry no matter what.

CLN: What fashion trends do you see that are affecting, or will affect, jewelrymaking?

MACKAY: I would have to say that happening, high-end trends such as "Smash Culture" apply in jewelry-making trends as well. One of the most popular trends seems to be taking many different crafting materials and using them in jewelry making. It's morphing cultural looks and materials at the same time.

WICK: I see a lot of the fashion trends going on in the reality-show world affecting jewelry making due to the success and exposure these TV shows have. Project Runway has been like a breath of fresh air in the fabric/wearables market, influencing a younger, hipper crowd that itís cool to make your own clothes again. This increases product sales in that market as well as the publishing market; more fabric sells, and have you noticed how many sewing magazines are on the racks this past year?

CLN: Are you seeing any changes in consumers' interest in classes. More/fewer of them?

WICK: Speaking from a very busy 2009 class/workshop schedule, I can say most of my classes were full with students spending in my class boutique. I have classes and workshops booked through half of 2011, so I'm not seeing a decrease in my class enrollments. I think itís taking more marketing efforts on the part of the show promoters or shop owners to constantly remind their customers about events and add more specialty events/classes to get folks into their shops.

Many shop owners make the mistake of cutting advertising budgets during these lean times when itís even more important to advertise. They need to focus on a wide variety of marketing methods these days to hit all customer bases; itís not your grandmaís advertising format anymore!

Facebook, UTube, and Craigís List are just a few free ways to promote in-store events and classes. I think contests and designer trunk shows are also another great way to get more feet into your store.

However, I do think folks are signing up for fewer classes in general and are more selective in their choices; some of the lesser-known teachers are having trouble filling classes but the well established teachers and venues still seem to be going strong.

HACKER: The Bead & Button show [in Milwaukee] had tremendous class enrollment in 2009. They are expanding their offerings for 2010 to more than 600 classes. The Puget Sound Bead Festival is reducing the number of classes to try to increase class size and are experimenting with reducing class prices by excluding the cost of the kits and allowing students to bring their own materials. Bead Fest Philadelphia had record enrollment this year but Bead Fest Portland enrollment was disappointing.

The Designers

Kristal will be at the CHA show in JHB Int.'s booth (#3131) signing copies of her book, Fabulous Fabric Beads, and well as demonstrating a new line of silk beads. Her website is www.kristalwick.com.

Jill will be in the Darice booth (#2501) to launch her new line, "Tonal Duets" which includes two-tone (silver and gold) accents such as lockets. She is also working with Silver Creek Leather (#1816) to launch a Real Leather line of components and findings (leather bracelets, cuffs, and more). She's teaching a workshop, "Realeatherô Jewelry by Jill MacKay," Sun. Jan. 24, 6-8:00 pm. Her website is www.jillmackay.com.

Katie has written numerous books about beading and crafts, including her newest title, Katie's Beading Secrets (Hot Off The Press 2009). She also presents "Beading Lessons" on each episode of the PBS series, Beads, Baubles & Jewels, and is a columnist for Beadwork magazine. Her website and blog are at www.KatieHacker.com.

Katie will launch her new signature line, Katiedidsô Creative Components, with Beadalon at the CHA Winter Show. She will do product demonstrations in the Beadalon booth (#2001) at 4 pm Sun., 10 am Mon., and 10 am Tues. Her entry in the Designer Global Gallery will feature the new Katiedids Creative Components. She is teaching two workshops: " Make Earrings in Minutes," Sun., 12-2pm and "Triple Take Jewelry," Mon. 12-2pm. Katie will also join Bead & Wire Jewelry Exposed co-authors Margot Potter and Fernando Dasilva for a book signing in the F+W Pubs booth, Tues., noon.

To register for the show and to sign up for workshops, visit www.chashow.org.



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