Manly jewellery, or the delicate art of gendered marketing

Recently, I have started making cufflinks. I had wanted for a while now to try making jewellery for men. I did not expect to stumble upon the very type of obstacle I hate most, which made me question my design choices a lot more than usual.

jewellery for men

 

Jewellery is for girls

This notion, as sexist and moronic as it is, is everywhere. Real men don’t wear accessories, they are not interested in fashion, and if they do there must be something wrong with them. I will not rant too long on this matter because there is so much to say and I don’t feel qualified enough for it. But there is something furiously unhealthy in our society.

 

Manly designs

When you look up “jewellery for men” on the internet, you get very simple things made with leather, metal, chain. The designs have lots of angles and straight lines, dark colours, wide seams or links, rough looks.

It would seem the 21st century man is supposed to be a suit-clad caveman with everything about him very large and very sturdy (there was so much potential for a joke about size and/or hardness here, be thankful I’m a classy person).

So here I come, all about round shapes and lively colours, ready to conquer the manly market. I would love to make things in leather but it’s not something one can improvise; I have too much to learn before starting and now is not the time. Metal is coming, but slowly. This was not looking very promising…

 

Go old or go funny

After a time of reflexion, the first easy-to-make accessories I decided to try were cufflinks. I liked this idea because I could keep using the materials I enjoy: metal and gemstones.

But cufflinks are either old school or a joke: as far as I know, nowadays, people only buy it for occasions such as weddings or to make a silly gift. I guess it says a lot about how masculinity in fashion has changed over time. Accessories for men, I find, are very limited, just like styles of clothes. Professional wear? Nothing much there except suits. Formal event? Suits again, or maybe a tuxedo if it is really formal.

For women, on any day and any occasion, tons of options are available! Who said that men don’t like diversity in their clothing and women do? Why is it considered effeminate for a man to like jewellery? And why would something ‘effeminate’ on a man be such a bad thing anyway?

 

Marketing outside of the box

We are all influenced by the buttloads of images and sounds we receive daily, that spread all the dumbest clichés. I look at what I make and keep wondering: ‘Is it too girly?’. And then I get pissed off at myself for falling into that trap again.

I have yet to find the delicate balance needed to try to make things that get out of those stupid constraints while also trying to sell them. It is not easy to reconcile your deepest convictions with… well, marketing.

 

In the end, I still finished my cufflinks. I made them in my own style and I’m happy with them. I am not one to be discouraged by ideas I despise, however prevalent they may be.

jewellery for men

Does this look girly to you? I don’t know anymore. I have decided to stop caring.

 

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100th blog post!

To celebrate my hundredth blog post, I will give you a quick tour of my favourite blogs. Warning: my selection is quite eclectic and there is nothing there about jewellery making… I don’t read any DIY or creation-oriented blogs. When I browse the internet, I am rather looking for other subjects for a change.

100th blog post

Bouletcorp — Boulet is a French comic artist who’s been blogging for more than ten years, with great humour and drawing style.

Scandinavia and the world — Denmark, Norway and Sweden walk into a blog…

Letters of note — A collection of all sorts of historical, touching, funny, sometimes crazy letters.

The Oatmeal — Matthew Inman is some sort of comic artist alien with a very weird humour.

Crocodiles Project — A webcomic telling stories of everyday sexism and harassment.

Sarah’s scribbles — Delightfully funny webcomic by Sarah Andersen.

What the fuck France (Youtube channel) — Paul Taylor is English but lives in France. Many French things escape his understanding for three reasons.


What are your favourite blogs?

 

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Happy Mother’s Day 2017

mother's day

In France, Mother’s Day is on the last Sunday of May!

 

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Existential question

dangling

Sometimes I end up asking myself questions on life, the universe and everything, and let me tell you the answer is not always as obvious as 42.

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Metal Clay workshop

After a long time spent researching, wondering, and hesitating, I have finally tried working with metal clay.

From what I had found on the internet, the best known metal clay is silver clay. As I love silver jewellery but have no skill whatsoever in metal working, this is a great alternative.

The concept is simple: around the 1990s, some smart Japanese people came up with a way of recycling the precious metals dust created in the making of electronic components. Adding water and a specific binder to the dust, they obtained a paste very much like polymer clay or play-doh… only it’s still metal.

You can then model an object, leave it to dry then fire it at very high temperature. The binder burns and the water evaporates, leaving only the pure, now solid, metal. That is to say, making stuff in copper, bronze or silver is now possible for anyone!

Sometimes I really like living in this century.

 

What can I say? I’m cheap.

On the downside, silver metal clay is outrageously expensive. 25 g of clay cost almost 60 €, plus there is an important investment to make into the material.

If that wasn’t enough, all precious metals are strictly controlled in France. I couldn’t sell silver jewellery without going through a long and painful administrative process that I am not even sure would succeed.

And lastly, silver clay, once fired, is very pure: it’s 999 silver. That way, there is no need for a special oven: a blowtorch or a gas cooker are enough, unlike copper or bronze. It makes silver clay easier to fire, but this is utterly absurd in terms of professional jewellery making. Silver is a soft metal. What you buy in a jewellery shop is usually 925 silver, which means 925 ‰ silver mixed with 75 ‰ copper to make it more resistant. Selling jewellery that might easily break is not my idea of being professional.

Hence my hesitation: I needed to be sure I would enjoy the possibilities enough to justify overcoming all these obstacles. I found out later that there was many other metals available in clay form, which solved the selling problem. So I decided to start there!

 

Beginners’ workshop

At my initiative, three of my friends and I signed up for a beginners workshop with Météor Clay, a French small business I can’t recommend enough. Farida, the business owner, came to my flat with all the required material and introduced us to metal clay: either copper, steel, or several types of bronze. She is a sweet lady whose business is crazily upstanding. Their general goal is to offer good material for a very reasonable price, and they stand by it even if it means their profit is lessened.

I won’t tell all the details of the workshop as it would take too long (it lasted from 10 a.m. till at least 6 p.m.), but I’ll highlight the best parts. The quality of my pictures is not the best, unfortunately, as we were inside during a cloudy sunday.

 

Modeling

I tried my hand at copper as I am hopelessly in love with this metal.

copper metal clay

Météor’s clays come in powder: the binder is already mixed in, all you have to do is add water. That way, you can preserve it indefinitely. Once you’ve made the wet clay, you can keep it in the refrigerator, but it won’t last more than a few weeks.

In many ways, this is similar to cooking. You make a dough, give it a shape, then bake it!

Just as, I assume, polymer clay, it is easy to stamp textures and shapes on it, and cut, roll, or model it. As long as the firing temperature is the same, you can also mix metals. Clays can be mixed or ‘glued’ to one another. For example, you could make a flat copper surface and put white bronze parts on it. Or you can try something close to mokume gane. Or you could make 925 silver (doesn’t solve the selling problem, though).

The possibilities are huge, to say the least.

dry metal clay

Once you are done playing with the dough, you leave it to dry.

Once dry, the clay has hardened but is still fragile and will break if you are not gentle. This is when you can sand, engrave, and make holes to set them on a finding later. Once fired, you won’t be able to alter it much aside from polishing it or, on the contrary, patinate it. Therefore, your piece has to be as finished as possible.

 

Firing

Météor also created their own high-temperature oven and sell it for 100 €. It’s basic but you actually don’t need anything more sophisticated. Apart from theirs, this type of oven starts with the Prometheus, for more than 500 €. It is not specifically designed for firing metal clays, so it takes longer and uses more energy than necessary. I might buy one eventually if I end up dabbling with enamels, glass and the likes, but that budget is unreasonable for me right now.

Apart from silver, the metal clay pieces must be fired in active carbon. You put them in a stainless steel container, covered in carbon, into the oven and plug it. You leave it for the relevant time depending on the metal.

metal clay oven

I am amazed at how simple it is. Of course, you need to be very careful and wear protections when using it: you are firing metal up to 900° C. You can see by the bright orange colour how hot it is.

Once the time is up, you can leave the pieces to cool inside the oven. But it’s best to take them out of the oven after only a few minutes: you will later obtain a shinier finish that way.

The stainless steel is bright red when out of the oven… There should definitely be gloves on this picture (it’s not my hand).

fired metal clay

As soon as they are fired, the pieces make a beautiful metal sound when you put them down, even if they still look like dry clay! Very satisfying.

 

Looks like jewellery

metal clay jewelry

After some polishing, it shines! All that is left to do is set them on hooks and clasps. That, I am familiar with.

At the end of the workshop, we each left with our creations and several tubes of metal powder. I bought an oven and can’t wait to try again!

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21st century problems

After my neck, my hand is going on strike with a bloody tendonitis. I should give my computer mouse a hearty, highly sarcastic thanks for that. It doesn’t stop me from making stuff, but it slows me down.

Damn, I’m getting old.

Although in the meantime, I’m doing some interesting reading!

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Setting up an Etsy shop — part 2

Continued from last post (available here) !


The First Sale

Your first sale feels great. It’s the proof that you are getting there. Mine occurred one month in because my favourite coworker really likes statement jewelry. By some weird coincidence, I had the same day a sale from my first ‘stranger’ client.

It took a long while to have another after that. Now, I have about two or three a month. It’s low, but considering how little work I put in as it’s not my main activity, it’s fairly decent.

 

The teams

When in doubt, get help! Teams can be amazing. I’m lucky enough to be a part of two local teams that are very active. We share tips and advice daily on our Facebook private group.

 

The service

Your Etsy shop is now open, your listings are active, your are officially an Etsy seller! Now comes the part I had absolutely not anticipated enough. In my mind, all this was still a hobby. I learned as I went and took tons of advice from other sellers.

 

  • Custom orders and questions

You’ll get questions (‘Can you set those earrings on clips?’ or ‘Does the 19 cm measure include the clasp?’). If only for this reason, I recommend using the ‘Sell on Etsy’ smartphone app. That way, you can receive and answer quickly. Many people don’t get back to you once you answer; no need to chase them, they are just browsing.

A regular customer of mine always sends me a message through Etsy asking me if X item that she likes is available. I’ve tried to explain that as long as it’s up on the shop, that means it’s available, but she never fails to ask me before buying. So now I just roll with it.

People are sometimes not very good with computers, sometimes rude, sometimes dead stupid. A good seller smiles and does his or her best to satisfy everyone… within the limit of reason and sanity.

Now, I may or may not be a grammar nazi. This is probably a vain battle and a tragically high number of people (customers and sellers alike) don’t care about it, but I cannot press enough the importance to have impeccable spelling and expression. You represent of your business. Correct written language is, in my opinion, mandatory for a good professional image. This is the internet age where all knowledge is instantly shared: there is no good excuse for bad spelling when it is so easy to check.

 

  • Shipping

Most sellers I know use tracking mail. It’s more expensive, but they are covered in case the postal service messes up, which happens.

When it does happen and the customer informs you, it is decent to offer at least a coupon code on your shop. Even though you weren’t responsible for the mishap, a nice offer helps getting over the unpleasant experience.

 

  • Packaging

I’ve spend a lot of time searching and trying to find a satisfying wrapping style. I’ve chosen origami enveloppes, to stay in a ‘all handmade’ policy. Every item has its own organza pouch wrapped in a pretty enveloppe that I close with a ‘Handmade with love’ sticker. Then I wrap it in tissue paper and always add a handwritten personal note to the buyer.

etsy shop packaging sell on etsy

Take the time to find your own style. Packaging is also representative of your business. It is worth spending a bit into it (don’t forget to include the expense in your items’ price, of course) as it shows professionalism and taste.

You can also “cheat” the smart way and buy products similar to yours on Etsy (a purely professional purchase and really, totally not for pleasure) to see what other sellers do. They can always be a source of inspiration.

 

  • Business card

Always put a card inside the package! It’s professional, it can be given around and it should show all the useful information about your brand.

etsy shop card sell on etsy

Even outside of shipping, when you mention your business, people will take a look only if they don’t forget your shop’s name: having at the ready some cards with all relevant information on it is therefore a good idea.

As for suppliers, Vistaprint is cheap and decent quality, Moo is great quality but costly. I haven’t yet seen the results of other companies.

 

Reviews

On the internet, people rely a lot on customers’ reviews. Their relevance and importance are generally accepted. It is not bad form to ask your buyers for one, if you do it politely. A simple ‘Let me know if you enjoy it!’ can suffice. Some put ‘Good reviews are always appreciated!’.

etsy shop reviews

Most people who leave reviews do it because they know it helps, so they put in a nice word. As long as your service is good, bad reviews remain a rare occurrence; if you offered a decent service and can prove it (screenshots and tracking mail are your best friends!), you can ask Etsy to remove an unreasonably bad review.

 

Growing

As time passes and you get more comfortable, don’t forget to look back on all you have accomplished so you can be ready for all that remains to be mastered. I sometimes look at the first listings I put online and compare it to my most recent ones. I’m glad to see my workmanship as well as my business skills have evolved for the better. Small businesses are not always easy to run; it’s important to keep track of progress!


That’s all for now! I hope it helps.

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International Women’s Day 2017

international women's day 2017

Emma Watson talks about it better than I do, so I’ll leave this here:

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Ethnic necklace

ethnic necklace Nadia

Have a nice week!

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Lux Fiat

I am growing tired of this light-deprived winter. Night when I commute to work, night when I commute back home, weak-ass sun through the windows during the rest of the day. My energy is officially hibernating. Also, living in a ground-floor flat, taking decent pictures has been complicated (and just like that, I am back on this blog’s point).

I take my jewellery pictures with my smartphone because I can’t afford a good camera. What I can afford, though, is resourcefulness. So I bought one of these :

tripod

And two of these :

spotlight and umbrella

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that smartphone tripods, spotlights, and umbrellas can actually be quite cheap (links in pictures)! Consequently they are not the best quality, but perfectly functional and sufficient.

Studio pictures

Taking good pictures of my items are now sooooo much easier. I don’t use the tripod for it because it would take too long to replace it for each angle. I’m still lazy, in case you had forgotten. Now this is the first try, unedited, using only the natural light in my flat:

My camera struggles to find enough light, so the tiniest movement of my arms makes the picture blurry. I must take five or six pictures before I’m satisfied. Editing will take longer and the more you edit, the more you see it’s edited.

This is the first try, unedited, one spotlight on:

My camera focused instantly, it’s clear, one take is enough. I won’t have to edit it a lot, just raise up the general light.

I have yet to try with both spotlight switched on, but all this is very promising! I won’t have to wait anymore for a clear day in order to be able to take my pictures. Even more than time saved, it’s the freedom of not being dependent on the weather nor the time that I am delighted with (yes, that pun was intended).

Work in progress

The best part is that for the first time since I’ve started my business, I can take decent pictures of my workshop! This is where the tripod, combined with a handy self-timer function on my phone, comes in. First quick tries:

workshop 1

workshop 2

My hands are now the face of my business (alright, enough with the puns).

Soon, I’ll be able to make better quality tutorial photos and generally show my work process, which is what I find most interesting to discover about other creators!

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