Oct 10, 2011

Holiday Gift Preparations Begin

Dad's gift from last season.

Yes, I know ... it's not even Halloween yet and I'm already stressing about THE holidays? Well ... if you take into account that I make all my gifts, I'm way behind schedule.

Everyone in my family always loves my one of a kind, handmade presents and I love giving them. Some people like to say "You make your gifts? That's great, it must save you some money." but that isn't really the case. I have high standards so the supplies are usually top quality and it adds up when you are talking about a 6 - 12 person group. It would help if I made the same thing for every one but there are not many things that will appeal to my teenage sisters as well as parents, uncle and friends. Not only does the cost add up but the time does as well. Add into the equation that I tend to spend more time on a family member's gift than I would on an item for sale and that I get weirdly obsessive about gift wrapping and you will see that I should have started in July.

So let the planning begin. The list :

Sister (29)
Sister (18)
Sister (16)
Best Friend

That is the list of people I will be seeing in person during the holidays. This next list is family out of town that I don't always exchange gifts with. So I call it the bonus list.

Brother (32)
Brother (23)

Then there is my boyfriend and 14 month old son but my boyfriend hates "mandatory gift days" and my son is too young to care. He would rather play with the wrapping paper anyway.

What am I going to make this year? I have some fuzzy ideas about sewing and embroidering scarves, making cuff links and tie tacks as well as the ever present jewelry from Rain Jewelry. That's as far as I've gotten so far.

More to come as plans flesh out. Thanks for joining me.


Oct 9, 2011

When Custom Jewelry Goes Wrong

Today I would like to talk about what happens when a customer is unhappy with a custom project's results.
The Agreed Upon Design

First I want to mention that I will not be bashing the customer in any way. She ended up just as frustrated as I did and I think (I hope) we both learned something about communication.

The request :
    She was looking for a silver cross called a square cross. A square cross is when all four arms are the same length. She showed me a couple of pictures for an idea of the look she wanted. The look was a smooth shiny cross paired with a more rustic look for the rest of the necklace. I made an offer and linked her to samples of my past custom orders to show her what my style was like.
Here are those links.
etsy feedback
website gallery

She decided that she liked my work and wanted me to  make her necklace. I sent her a sketch of some options.

She chose the more squared off design with a figure eight bail and crystal accent.

By this time we had been messaging back and forth about ten times so here I am thinking we are on the same page and both well informed about what is expected.

    We moved on to figuring out a necklace to go with the cross. Originally she thought she wanted leather but we couldn't find any pictures of leather cord that she liked. She chose a knotted hemp cord that had the type of simple rustic look she wanted. She had mentioned earlier on that she wanted to be able to leave the necklace on at night and in the shower. I expressed my reservations about natural fibers holding up in the shower but she told me she was too old to change her ways.
   It took us almost 20 more messages to finalize the cord decision. I was finally able to send her a sketch of the final design. You can see that sketch at the beginning of this blog post.

She loved the design!

Next we had a discussion about price and payment. The price was agreed upon and I sent her an invoice for the first half payment. She requested an invoice for the entire price. The reason I do a half and half payment is for the protection of the customer, I strongly recommended she only pay half upfront as it was nonrefundable and referred her to my policies detailing this matter.
She agreed and made a half payment so I got started.

The material I use for my sculpted silver custom pendants is called precious metal clay (pmc). The clay is hand molded and fired in a kiln. When it comes out of the kiln it is 99.9% pure silver. Using metal clay allows me to send pictures of the piece in clay before it is finalized into a harder form. Changes can still be made at this time so I always get approval at this stage before firing. Here is the picture I sent to her of the cross in raw clay form with some options of crystals to use in the bail.
She didn't like any of the crystals. She liked the silver ball but we decided it was too big for the cross.
We were now at 58 messages back and forth.

She approved the cross so I fired it, polished it and sent her a picture with a new bead to use in the bail.
She loved the bead, loved the cross, loved the cord.

I again received approval and moved on to assembling all the components together.

The necklace was finished and I again sent her some photos.

On message #70 she loved the finished necklace.
She made the second half payment and I sent out her necklace.

To my dismay, the next time I heard from her she was unhappy with the necklace. She said the surface was scratched, the arms were inconsistent and the knots in the cord were uneven. She also did not like that my initials were pressed into the back of the cross.

I told her that I was truly sorry she was not happy, offered to replace the cord, and refinish the surface for her while reminding her that the hand-formed nature of this piece was not likely to have a machine made look. 

After going back and forth for a few days, she realized I was not going to offer a refund and decided to send me back the piece to continue working on it.

Using metal files, I attempted to address her concerns about the size of the arms and the texture of the surface. I also started collecting samples of thin leather cord that I thought she would like to replace the hemp that was fraying from obviously being worn in the shower.

The reworked surface with the arms re-sized.
Another view of the surface.
The back with my initials.

When I sent her the pictures she claimed it looked even worse than before. That there were visible scratches in the photos where there were not any visible in the first photos and that the arms were still not even.

It became clear to me that my type of hand formed, sculpted silver was not going to be something she would ever be happy with. 

While I had clearly stated from the beginning that I don't give refunds on custom work, I thought it best to refund her 1/2 of her money. She was pleasant about the situation while expressing her opinion that it was unfair that I kept the first half payment and the cross. I chose not to remind her that it was stated to her more than once that the down payment is nonrefundable and refrained from mentioning that a cross is not something that fits in with my style and that I would be unlikely to be able to resell it. Instead I recommended she find an artist laser cutting sheets of sterling silver to get the results she is looking for. Having said that, I stand by my work and feel that when I do re-assemble this piece more to my liking, I will be proud to display it among my items for sale.

Sep 26, 2011

Custom Jewelry - Dog Tags

  In this first design walk through, I'll go through the process from beginning to end because it's the first here in this blog. In the future I'll post each step as it happens.

My most recent custom order was for two sets of dog tag style necklaces. The intent was to coordinate with a previous order for a silver heart with a black cz made to commemorate a beloved pet.

This was the first commission. A fine silver, hammered, "Puffy Heart" with a large black cz and a Thai black sterling silver chain.

This is the sketch she sent me with her thoughts on the matching dog tag necklaces.
I then sent her a sketch of my own detailing some design possibilities.


She chose the top option for stone placement and I got started.

I sculpt my fine silver pieces using precious metal clay or pmc. This gives me a chance to show the customer the piece and allowing for critiques before firing it into the final 99.9% silver.

In this case, she wasn't fond of the setting style I used on the stones so ...

           I remade the setting so that they were more
in line with the original heart necklace and had a manlier look.


Next, the pieces got fired to burn off the binding agent in the raw metal clay and turn the tags into pure silver.
One of the black cz lost it's color in the firing process and had to get reset.

One new stone, an oxidation process to add shading, two black sterling ball chains later and ... Ta Da!

Another happy customer.
She has promised photos of all three necklaces being worn. I will post them when they arrive.

Thanks for joining me,


Sep 23, 2011

Getting Started

Hi. My name is Rain Weingarten of Rain Jewelry. Here I will be showing how the custom jewelry design process happens and more.