Merchandising your work is the art of selling your product to the public (or to a retail store/gallery) in a way that creates interest and encourages customers to buy. It includes everything from attractively displaying your work, to the packaging, your branding, and the message your branding sends.
But, it goes further than this. Merchandising means you have a body of work that a store (or you) can sell which will give your potential customers a reasonable variety to choose from. It usually happens in the following way: A customer is drawn to a body of work because of the main piece—the big WOW piece—which should be in the center of a display. But many times, the WOW piece is either too big or too expensive, so the customer decides on a piece such as earrings or a pendant that are close by. This happens all the time. You want to provide as many options as possible for your target consumer. The pieces should offer a variety of price points as well as sizes and variations on your theme.
Creating a cohesive collection with a focused style can be a challenge for any designer or maker. Most emerging jewelers want to make EVERYTHING. They’ve learned wonderful techniques, so all they want to do is experiment and see what delicious objects they can create. However, successful designers know that you must have a look that is distinctively your own. One that people will look at and say, “That is a ‘David Yurman’ or ‘Todd Reed’ or ‘Michael Good’ piece.” If you think about any well-known artist in any medium, the same is true. You instantaneously have a vision of their work as soon as you hear their name. Think: Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Frank Lloyd Wright, Dr. Seuss, Mozart, and Ralph Lauren. They have identifiable looks and approaches to their work. This is what I want you to do as well.
I suggest the following steps for you to create a well-merchandised collection of jewelry:
- Learn enough about your niche so you can start to narrow what you want to make. What techniques are you passionate about? Fabrication? Granulation? Enameling? Chain Maille? Why are you passionate about this process? This material? This style and look? How can you take what you’ve learned and use it to create your own distinctive look?
- Take a single element from one of the pieces you’re most proud of, and use this element to make 40+ (no less!) thumbnail sketches of jewelry that features that specific, single element. It could be a flower or a star or a random shape, but it must be something that really speaks to you. I want to see the element used in the following categories:
- Earrings – in dangles, chandeliers, hoops, posts, one or two clips
- Pendants – using a single or numerous elements
- Bracelets – in a cuff, charm, bangle
- Rings – in a wide band, mounting, in stackables, with a center stone
- Pins – only one or two, but they should be WOW pieces
- Necklaces – again one or two, but make one of them a WOW piece
- Cufflinks – (if your element works in that style)
- I want to see designs with an added pearl, a colored gemstone or beads. I want to see them using three or four elements in the same piece. I want you to stretch your vision and your creativity. I want to see this element small and big. This may be the most creative exercise you can do to develop your design. It is going to make you push your limits as a designer. And here is the crux: the first 25 sketches you make will be the most predictable and commonplace examples, so KEEP GOING! Jump in and flex your creative muscles.
- Next, I want you to collect 25 words (minimum) that describe your new collection. Yes, this is now a collection. These words will remind you to stay focused on your style, your processes, and your inspiration—your look. Print these words in a 40pt font and tape them above your bench and computer. If you can’t think of 25 words, then invite some friends over, lay your work out, and ask them to suggest words. Write everything down. Don’t edit quite yet. Just collect words.
- At this point, you can take the words you’ve collected and write a short (25 word or less) collection description. All jewelry has a story. Just ask around. Most people won’t say they bought a piece of jewelry because it was on sale. There is always a story to go with it, especially when something is handcrafted. The consumer wants to be able to tell their friends the story and how they discovered your work. Your 25+ collected words and eventually your collection description will help the salesperson or the customer to tell your story in your words.
- Now you can choose a name for your collection, write its description, and even create marketing materials and packaging to promote and enhance the collection and your brand.
The reason a merchandising plan is so important is that it gives, not only to the ultimate consumer but also to the novice standing behind your counter, an easy language to use when they talk about and sell your work. The collection makes sense. It all belongs. It is easy to understand and identify. It’s cohesive. It has a story to tell—your story. And, it is well merchandised.