Sunday, 6 September 2009

The handmade revolution and the competition it faces

Over the weekend, Paul and I went shopping. Just window shopping really, browsing around a few of the shops at the local designer outlet. There's a jewellers there and what I saw amazed me. Inside were carousels of silver jewellery. Nothing strange there. What really caught my eye was how tarnished all of the pieces were. Seriously, I thought some of the chains were gold, they had tarnished so bad. There was a bracelet with a flat heart charm and the charm looked as if it had started to rot away, the way the tarnish covered it. It was priced up at £30. I was gobsmacked. And angry. There were 3 women working in there. One was behind the counter looking bored, the other two were jumping on customers seeing if they wanted 'help'. People were actually coming into the shop and looking at the jewellery in the case and actually showing an interest.

What made me so angry? Well, I could probably hazard a guess as to how much those tarnished pieces actually cost to make. It would be pretty low. Then, the items are put on display and left to rot, for want of a better expression. Why didn't one of the women working there spend her afternoon giving the pieces a polish, really making them shine and look their best to the customer? Well, looking back, why should they bother? People were still coming into the shop and looking at the pieces, with some looking like they might purchase. I thought about the pieces of jewellery I make and the effort I put into making them, keeping them clean, making them look their best for the customer, keeping them as affordable as I can. It's not just me, there are thousands of jewellery makers across the country, around the world who wouldnt dream of letting a piece get so tarnished, let alone putting it out on display for people to see.

Further round the shopping centre is a well-known high street fashion accessories shop. You probably know the one, its name is a girl's name. Sounds like eclairs. Anyway, I had a look in there and my heart sank further. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more, being sold for a few pounds. How can us handmade artists (for that is what we are) compete with prices like that?

Now, ok, chances are if you're reading this blog you can appreciate handmade pieces and the work and love that goes into each one, be it jewellery, art, toys, whatever. My problem is, how do we express that to the wider world? Money is tight for everyone at the moment and people relish the chance to be able to liven up an outfit for a few pounds. Rebecca at Buttons and Flowers makes the point when talking about a beautiful bag with charm that her daughter has made. She says "She's really pleased with the end result, but says that none of her friends will like it because it does not come from a shop and they think that, because it is handmade, it is not as good as something bought" - even though, as I said above, something bought from a shop may not be as good quality!

Apologies for my rant. How can we encourage the handmade revolution, dear readers? How do we show people, prospective customers that handmade does not mean cheap, or shoddy, or second rate, but infact premium, well-made and often unique?

Thanks for reading

Kate x

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Animal Farm

I thought that I'd introduce you all to the 'face' of Glamourpuss Jewellery today - Barney! He's the puss you see on my folksy and twitter banners. Barney was a rescue cat that came to live with me around 4 years ago when I lived in a flat. Because it was a first floor flat, I didn't want to force a 'normal' cat to have to live indoors, so I went looking for a deaf cat. As they can't hear cars, it's best to keep them indoors for their own safety. When I moved in with Paul, we bought a house with a garden and a little shed. My dad built Barney a run at the side of the shed and fitted a cat flap, so now during the day Barney can still go outside and get some fresh air and watch the birds, but I know he's safe in his run and can't escape. Some days I feel cruel keeping him enclosed, but it really is for his own safety. He wouldnt hear a car approaching and be able to get out of the way in time and...well ,it doesnt bear thinking about.

The day I took the picture above, Barney was out in his run enjoying the sunshine whilst I was taking some photos of the jewellery I had made. With Barn being deaf, he can't hear himself miaow - believe me, he has a LOUD miaow! So, I let him sit on the chair with me for a few minutes and have a bit of a fuss. Here he is inspecting the cat rings I had made that day, checking they are up to scratch. He informs me that if I'm going to use his image for the business, he wants to ensure standards are kept high!

We also have two rabbits that live with us - Hef and Poppy. Yesterday was the first time they were allowed a run around the garden together. Hef is nearly a year old and Poppy is 6 months. As Hef is a boy and Poppy a girl, Hef had to be 'snipped' and we had to wait a few weeks before it was 'safe' to let them out together. We love rabbits, but two is enough for us really! Here are a few photos from their first encounter. It was love at first site! Hef (the white rabbit) was completely smitten and followed Poppy everywhere:

Today wasn't quite such a romantic tale. I think the novelty of having a playmate had quickly worn off for Hef. When I let them have a run around the garden this morning the tables had turned - it was Poppy who was following Hef! The poor lad couldnt get any peace. Even when he jumped into his hutch for some privacy she would follow him. Everywhere he went, she followed. Eventually I had to put him in his hutch and close the door to give him a chance to escape. He looked exhausted! Poppy's obviously never heard of 'playing it cool' around a guy.
We also have two coldwater fish - a Shubunkin called Seamus and a Goldfish called Gary. (We also used to have a Comet called Cuthbert. Are you getting the theme here....?). We've also got a pond in the back garden with about 20 more fish.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed being introduced to our little menagerie!