Studio Notes: Do You Wear Your Own Jewelry Designs?

Earlier this year I visited a prestigious art school to hear artistic jewelry graduates talk on stage about their work. Although they showed lots of slides of their artistic explorations, few were wearing their own jewelry designs.

Like it wasn’t fashionable, and I was a tad dismayed. Then I realized I wasn’t wearing my own jewelry designs, either.

My excuse?

Here are a couple you can select from:

  • Fear: I was afraid they’d look down on me and think my jewelry was schlock.
  • Greed: I make my jewelry to sell at galleries, like the $600 mohawkite and onyx necklace pictured above with emerald beads. I need the money and don’t like to sell used jewelry.
  • Loathing: I have a wholesale license and run my silversmithing as a business. So, a strand of beads that costs you $100 plus sales tax costs me $50 and no sales tax. This allows me to make a profit. And I have to report jewelry that I give to myself on my income tax form, in a special little box that always feels like the pointing finger of accusation.

So, after a moment of angst, I made myself some jewelry to wear. It was a good thing, too. I went through my sterling silver scrap, found some heavy-gauge wire, leftover chain, and solder. Then I whipped up a ring and matching cuff. Then I sold the project as a story idea to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist and now have an August 1 deadline.

jewelry designs

Why Jewelry Artists Should Wear Their Jewelry Designs

At a jewelry show earlier this year, I also wore my own jewelry. Since I teach pearl carving, I adorned myself in project samples the students would be making. Saved me hours of digging around for stuff in the bottom of my purse.

And knowing that I had a raft of blog posts due in July, I decided to interview some of the attendees at the show, asking this simple question: Do you wear your own jewelry designs? Here are their answers:

Judy J., Beaumont, CA – “I’m just really shy about wearing it. I wear my jewelry outside of here.  I have beautiful bracelets, but I don’t even bring them.”

Anita K., Greenburg, PA – “I wear it to events, but I don’t wear it to work. We print 600 T-shirts an hour, so it’s a safety thing.” Anita was at the evening show event sans jewelry.

Kimberly A., Edwards, CO – Kimberly, who owns a jewelry studio in a mountain resort community, says she doesn’t wear her own jewelry, because she can’t see the earrings and pendants. When she wears her own creations in her studio shop, though, “it sells right off my body.” Another reward, spotting customers in her mountain community wearing the jewelry she makes.

Stephanie C., Chicago – “I wear it because I’m proud of it. It takes almost a month to make.” Stephanie, accompanied by her equally stylish mom, was wearing a handmade beaded tassel necklace.

jewelry designs

Deb D., Mequon, WI – The 70-year-old demonstrated to me the stretchiness of the elastic jewelry she was wearing proudly on her arms. “I like keeping my hands busy and making one-of-a-kinds in the bead combinations I want.”

Charles B., Shrub Oak, NY – “I plan on going back to work and showing people what I made on vacation and the experience I had, and maybe inspire them to do shows, too.” Charles took six classes and showed off the jewelry he was wearing. “It builds up my creativity.”

Kim P., Chicago – “I wear my own jewelry because I’m proud of it and I’m asking people, ‘What do you think? What do you like?’”

Audry H., Dallas, GA – “I wear my own jewelry, because I can’t sell it if I don’t wear it.”

Do you wear your own jewelry designs? Let us know in the comments below!


Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at betsylehndorff@gmail.com.

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous at 9:58 am July 16, 2018

    I wear my own jewellery as cannot sell it . I wanted to but I’m disabled so do not make huge amounts and I have no way to market it for sale. My parents use to do craft shows and they said they would help me by selling for me but they told my dad’s sister what I was doing and she started doing it and then going to same shows as my parents which made them feel they could not sell for me as would be going against her.
    I wish I had a way to sell and the health to allow me to make more as it would make me happy .
    If love to combine my jewellery making, bead embroidery, quilt and clothes making to make unusual items that are all one offs.

    • Anonymous at 7:09 pm July 16, 2018

      First I want to say to anonymous… my heart sank when I read your response. I can only about imagine how surmountable your feelings must have been and the disappointment you experienced by such a decision. I sense that his actions have impacted your decisions to keep active with your jewelry. I hope you can find the courage to not let your situation limit you though. I experienced a similar situation and remember all to well how I felt. I am a christian and believe in scripture. Scripture tells us (both male and female) that when we marry we leave home and become one. While I understand your dad’s not wanting to go against his sister, he should be making you a priority. You are his child – his priority should be to you. If his concern is competition, even if she and you may be making/selling similar items – a little competition is a good thing and never hurts. People appreciate choices. You may have different colors, different bead choices, different textures, etc within your pieces. So while it may seem like she and you are in conflict, it really isn’t. There are still differences between what she does and what you do. Believe in your work and don’t be swayed by what others do.

      Secondly – there are opportunities everywhere. Not just at craft shows. I wear my own jewelry and am willing to sell right off my body. I make jewelry for 3 reasons: for myself, to donate, to sell. I don’t sell very much because I too, am disabled and cannot go to trade shows or craft fairs, etc. However, I don’t let that distract me. There are opportunities everywhere!!! I have sold pieces right off my body. I need to see doctors every month and I visit my parents at their senior living community. I go to church and grocery stores (when my body is not challenging me). I cannot count how many times nurses, cashiers, people at church, etc have commented. When I shared with them that I made the pieces they are stunned and excited and many have asked if I ever sell my work. If they like what I am wearing I ask them what they would be willing to pay. I accept whatever they offer – even if it is less than what I would ask at a craft show. I would much rather have my pieces out there making someone happy than having them tarnish and collect dust in a bin somewhere in my home. And think of the stories they are telling! Every time they tell the story my name gets out there.

      There are many charitable organizations that would love to have jewelry. I’ll bet they would welcome what you make. There are a number of local organizations in my area that have auction type fund raisers throughout the year. I am not able to donate financially (SSI disability barely pays enough to cover living expenses) but I can make contributions in other ways by donating the pieces I make. One of my favorites is an organization called Place of Hope. Twice a year they hold a “garage sale” where kids from income challenged families can come and shop for their moms for Christmas gifts and Mother’s day gifts. What mom wouldn’t love a piece of jewelry. And think of the little child that picks out the piece and the satisfaction he/she feels when they give their “garage sale” find to their mom. I also make piece to donate to our local Goodwill Easter Seals and Salvation Army for their stores.

      I pray with hope you are able make your luck work for you by finding a creative way to get your jewelry out there. Somewhere someone is waiting to buy what you have to offer.

    • Anonymous at 3:26 pm August 22, 2018

      How rude that your own aunt would do you that way, worse that your father lets her get away with it. What kind of aunt, knowing your options are limited, steals your idea. Wow. There are words for people like that I am unable to use. I have been raised better than that although I can certainly think them.
      Check around to local churches and homeless shelters where you can donate pieces. The people coming may not be able to buy, but the people who work there can. Also if your church holds a yard sale, get a table. Wear your pieces, get them seen. People don’t buy what they don’t see. If you spend a day at the beach, bring extra pieces. Your local county services may also have ideas. There are fossil clubs & lapidary clubs where I am. They hold sales annualy , if you re
      A member, you have a vending space. See if you can find swap meets. I have a friend who barters everything. There is also seeing if your aunt & you can work together. That depends on your relationship. Also to remember that everyone’s style is different so the jewelry will be quite different. No conflict of interest. Where there’s a will, there is a way.
      I am also disabled & know your pain. I make jewelry for friends & family. I donate to local churches, my local V.A. center. I have been thinking of taking a small booth at my local flea market. That’s another resource.
      Make your opportunities. Don’t let anything or anyone derail you. Etsy is also available although with them & amazon marketplace there are fees. No one said this is an easy field to work, however, with hard work & a bit of dedication I have no doubt you’ll be successful. Good Luck

  2. raven w at 9:59 am July 18, 2018

    I do wear my own jewelry. That is a way of advertising what it is that you do. Most times it is a conversation starter. Such as being in the bank or a store, and I will get complimented on the jewelry that I have on that day. Some conversations lead to sales, and some don’t. It’s confirmation for me that I am on the right path and using my creative gift. Besides jewelry should make the person wearing it feel beautiful in whatever her choice of adornment is.

  3. Anonymous at 10:19 am July 19, 2018

    There are only 2 times that I don’t wear my own jewelry: 1) when I have to go out and don’t feel well enough to ‘sparkle’ and 2) when I want to wear jewelry I purchased from a fellow artist (usually to church because I don’t ‘market’ my art there) and want a change from wearing my own.
    Most the time, I’m wearing my own creations and have business cards in my wallet/purse! I never make a design that I wouldn’t wear myself; and if a new design doesn’t get noticed or complimented when I wear it, then I don’t make any to sell. I love a ‘walking art gallery’ that brings my customers compliments to build their self-esteem!

  4. Anonymous at 8:33 am July 21, 2018

    2 answers here 🙂
    1st for the disabled lady: find someone local to you who makes jewelry. Facebook is a good place to start – there are MANY closed jewelry groups for all types of techniques. Just message to join and I’ll bet they will welcome you.
    Then make arrangements to work with someone there who will let you display your work with theirs. Do be careful and check the person out first but this could work for you. You might also consider asking dads sister if you could display your stuff with hers. She might surprise you and be very happy to help. If not, then your parents definitely deserve to be reminded that their first priority is helping YOU not his sister.

    And do I wear my own jewelry? ABSOLUTELY!! Anyone who knows me knows I wear nothing but my own jewelry. I started making jewelry because I had specific ideas for what I wanted to wear and even tho I do sell things I see no reason to deny myself the pleasure of my beautiful pieces. I got rid of almost everything I had that I didnt make. Flash of Silver / http://www.deby.com

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