Jewelry Business: Notes From The Other Side of the Counter with Andrew Thornton

Andrew Thornton is a fine artist who resides in western Pennsylvania.

As a well-known jewelry artist and now the owner of the fine art and craft gallery, Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, Andrew Thornton has a unique perspective to share with anyone who wants to get into the jewelry business. Recently, Andrew wrote a wonderful series of posts on his own blog, The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton, called Notes From the Other Side of the Counter:  Candid Advice from a Brick and Mortar Gallery Owner. As the former owner of a fine craft gallery and bead shop, I found his advice to be right on target when it comes to forging a successful relationship with gallery and store owners who can help your jewelry business succeed.

What struck me was that the information in these posts could be just as helpful for a gallery owner as it is for the jewelry artist. Andrew was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me about what life was like on the other side of the counter:

Q: What motivated you to write these blogs about being on the other side of the counter?

A: The inspiration for writing these blog posts came from seeing a comment on Facebook from a friend who had just cold-called a gallery and was nervous about the process of selling her jewelry through a third-party.  In response to her status update, I saw all kinds of wild misinformation and horror stories galore from artists who had bad experiences, and I wanted to help clear that up and provide an alternative perspective.  It started off as a short list of suggestions she might make to improve her chances, but then grew into a ten-part series.  It can be a daunting task and there's no need to add additional fear and anxiety.

Q: What's the most difficult part of owning your own gallery? What's the most rewarding?

A: Owning your own gallery is a difficult challenge in of itself.  It is definitely a labor of love.  The hardest aspect is time, or rather, the lack of time.  Despite your best efforts, there is never enough time to do everything you'd like.  If I ever feel as though I've crossed everything off my to-do list, it's probably because I've forgotten something.  The thing that I find most rewarding about having a gallery is that has become a focal point for creative individuals.  By opening the shop, we have encouraged creativity within the community and created a place to share ideas and art.  I love showing people something new that they maybe wouldn't have had an opportunity to see before and then seeing it spark creativity and inspiration.

A display of handmade jewelry by local artist Connie Parsons at Allegory Gallery.

I owe a huge thank-you to all the other artists, jewelry-makers, and shop owners who have helped shape my experiences on both sides of the counter. Even the less-than-pleasant encounters have been highly educational!

Q: If there's just one thing you want a jewelry artist to take away from your series of blog posts, what would it be?

A: The most important thing that I want people to take away is that the best working relationships are a partnership.  It's more than just a business agreement, but a mutual goal fed by respect, hard work, and if you're lucky, a friendship. Don't give up!  I've been told that I wasn't good enough or that I would fail.  Prove them wrong!  If you're passionate about something, the Universe will find a way to help you achieve your goals.

Make Your Jewelry Photos Stand Out

Whether you're looking into selling your jewelry online or expanding your jewelry business through sales at fine craft galleries, you'll need to make sure that your jewelry photographs are outstanding. Poor photographs can make or break a sale! Even if you're not a photography expert, we've got the resources to help you get started.

No matter what kind of digital camera you have, understanding how to use it can be the best investment you make for your jewelry business. Get expert advice on how to take those tricky but important pictures of your jewelry from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist photographer Jim Lawson in How to Photograph Your Jewelry. Because it's an instant download, you'll be watching and learning on your favorite desktop or laptop computer in just minutes! Find out about lighting, backgrounds, and even how to use computer software programs to get the most out of your digital photographs. Download your copy of How to Photograph Your Jewelry today and see for yourself how better pictures of your handmade beaded jewelry can boost your jewelry business!

Have you been on both sides of the counter? What would your advice be for someone who wants to start selling their jewelry through third-party shops and galleries? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog with your advice or your question about the jewelry business.

Bead Happy,


Andrew Thornton is a professional fine artist who left the hustle and bustle of New York City for rural Pennsylvania. His work can be seen in private collections around the globe. He is a regular contributor to books and magazines. Andrew is also the Creative Director of Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA. For more information, check out Andrew's blog, The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton, and the Allegory Gallery website.

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