Teach so you can Learn
by Natalia Colman
My original foray into jewellery making was so that I could create my own unique pieces for clients and for the photo shoots that I styled. On one of the worst snowy days the south of England has ever seen, I set off in the direction of Ipswich for a two-day silver clay masterclass. This was to be a 500 mile round trip and my phone was ringing constantly as I travelled, with my friends and family telling me to turn back as there had been so many accidents and roads closed. Still I pressed on, taking many a detour, such was my devotion to getting to this workshop to begin to learn jewellery making and turn my dreams into reality.
I did make it to the workshop and, as they say, the rest is history. Working with silver clay has become my passion, my main business focus and jewellery making has taken over my life in a very good way. When I returned home, I started to think about my long-winded journey. I was prepared to travel and in fact have since gone all over the country and half way across the world to learn new skills. However, one question struck me, what about all the people who aren’t in a position to do this? So I decided to run a silver clay workshop from my home. I put a poster up in the window of a local gift shop, not really expecting to get any response. Lo and behold , I had five people wanting to come along and my first workshop was born. Having enjoyed the experience so much, my five students were all eager to come back for an advanced workshop. Since that day four years ago, I now run jewellery making workshops up and down the country, have released two DVDs and have just written a book which is coming out in the New Year.
One of the best aspects of teaching, is it really helps you to connect with your customers and allows you to learn so much about your own skills and improve upon them by teaching others. You may worry that in passing on your skills you are creating greater competition. Now other people can compete with you by selling jewellery just like yours. The truth is that you are actually creating a higher profile for yourself as an expert and elevating your status. So in the fullness of time, people will come to you rather than you having to go to them. The majority of my jewellery sales now come through commissions rather than me having to tirelessly plug my creations. My teaching work now does my jewellery sales and marketing for me.
Teaching comes in many forms, you may wish to start by offering simple taster workshops and show one or two techniques. Jewellery making for children’s parties has become very popular indeed. In fact, your next booking will probably come from your one of the mum’s whose child attends one of your fun sessions. Offer your services to bead shops, galleries, schools and groups who are always looking for some interesting activity to offer their members or students. Set up a weekly group that you can run from home say two hours per week. Charge a small amount to cover overheads and charge for any materials used. Jewellery making can be a lonely business, so you can have a sense of camaraderie and earn some money whilst doing what you love. It also gives you the guilt-free opportunity to order those beads and findings you have been lusting after.
One of my customers creates step-by-step projects and sells a kit of all the materials needed to produce each one. She has become so successful with this. It generates a good income for her and allows her to produce the jewellery she loves making and she has great fun coming up with new ideas.
Jewellery magazines are always looking for new contributors to their monthly magazines. They pay for any step-by-step project they accept and publish and this can be a good way to publicise yourself. The editor’s contact details can be found in the magazine or their website. Get in touch with any ideas you have, they may just be looking for what you have to offer.
“Teach so you can learn” is one of my favourite quotes from American craft guru Martha Stewart. She has built an incredibly successful business from her passion for all types of craft and one of the ways she has done this is by teaching others. I can recommend Martha Stewart’s book very highly. It’s called ‘The Martha Rules’ and is filled with ideas to help you create the business you want. She interweaves her advice with personal stories about her own journey and all the peaks and troughs. It’s been a very inspiring book for me and I hope it helps you along your own creative journey.
Thanks again for your contributions to Jewellery Business Week, Natalia. When we think of having a jewellery business we often don’t think about teaching, so your post offers a really interesting and inspiring take on this week’s events so far.