Be Your Own Curator

Coming up with an awesome piece of jewelry often means paring it down to its essential core before embellishing. Designing a line of jewelry that will launch your brand and become your signature comes down to much the same thing.

But curating comes in just as handy when you're trying build a jewelry business that will support you.

If there's a business book that seems to speak directly to jewelry artists, or any designers who sell their wares, it's probably Rework. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier wrote this book in 2010, based on their own experiences building their own business, launched in 1999.

Rework is a quick read, the kind of book you can pick up and put down, open anywhere and find a useful nugget of wisdom. It was obviously designed for visual learners, with lots of fun graphics.

"You don't make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That's a warehouse," Fried and Heinemeier write. "What makes a museum great is the stuff that's not on the walls. It's the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Be a curator."

Fried and Heinemeier took their own advice earlier this year and pruned down their own business, formerly contained in their company, 37signals, to focus on the project that has brought them the most success, the web application known as Basecamp.

How does their business philosophy apply to you? Most obvious is with the jewelry you make. Every artist or designer goes through a period of intense experimentation, and most go through it periodically throughout our careers. But if you want to build a successful design business, sooner or later you have to hone your work to a signature look, a recognizable body of work.

Other jewels from this book that apply directly to studio jewelers and craftspeople:

You're better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole. "You can turn a bunch of great ideas into a lot of crappy products by trying to do them all at once," write Fried and Heinemeier. "You can't do everything you want to do and do it well. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that's merely good."

Recognize that problems are negotiable. Look for a solution that offers "maximum efficiency with minimum effort," the authors say. Most problems can be solved with simple solutions. It's not about showing off your skills. Build something that gets the job done and move on.

Figure out your epicenter. Ask yourself what you could take away and still have what you're selling. When you're designing a prototype piece in your collection, what can you remove and still have the basic stucture? Knowing that you can eventually change stones, change metals, add enameling, alter the palette or the size, what does the foundation come down to?

You can apply all of this to the way you run your business as well. If work gets busy, maybe you want to bring in some help, farm out stone-setting or administrative tasks or even housecleaning. Knowing what you absolutely can't do without will allow you to run more efficiently. Figure out what you must accomplish in any given week or month, prioritize it, and plan around it.

You may find this is a lot simpler than you think it is. Knowing what's essential will make you move with focus and efficiency – and believe it or not, leave you more time and energy for the creative stuff.

Other business books I discuss in the December 2014 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist:

Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halverson
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber
Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
Rework by Jason Fried

CATHLEEN MCCARTHY is a freelance writer whose stories appear in Town & Country, AmericanStyle, Art & Antiques, and her own site,
The Jewelry Loupe. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

NET PROFITS is a regular feature about using the Internet for jewelry selling of special interest to those with a home-based jewelry business that appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Learn more in "Run Your Business by the Book," December, 2014.

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