Almost a decade ago, I was looking for Christmas presents online and my wife came across an Etsy creator who had come up with a pair of earrings made from some small circular watch movements. I thought it was cool and she bought them. I have always loved the way mechanical things worked and looked and had been a fan of the “Steampunk” genre, in its true form, before it was destroyed with celebrities and bad reality shows and the like. I used to play old games on my PC, at the time, such as SPQR, Lighthouse and Myst: all of which use simple mechanical engineering in some of their in-game puzzles. That was fun and that was interesting. The concept of simple mechanics would come to light in many other games I played and media I consumed.
When my wife showed me the earrings she had purchased, she also mentioned that maybe I could make her something as well. I sat and thought on what I would do and then started off small. I went with her to Joann’s and picked out a $2 chain and a $5 pendant and stuck them together.
This wasn’t anything compared to what I do now, but it was the start. My wife didn’t love it, but my youngest son did and wanted it for his jewelry collection. I obliged and then went on, trying to make something else, that my wife did love. I think in my first year of making jewelry, I had probably spent over $200, on chains, pendants, wires and other findings. I made so many items that my wife had suggested that I find a store or someplace to sell them at. Along the way we had found a small store in St. Louis, MO, called “The St. Louis Curious Shoppe”.
The St. Louis Curios Shoppe, had been an antique store in an area that has many antique stores, in a not so-safe area of St. Louis. They operated as a store, where they sold a few things that they had collected over the years dating back hundreds of years in St. Louis but then they also worked as a consignment shop for any local artists. I considered myself local and then went there to meet with the owner and set things up. She loved the way that my jewelry looked and I was able to have it in her store. As great as it was to have my items there, and even have people buying them, I had no idea how to price them. The store took 40% for themselves from every sale and I just randomly decided that each necklace should cost $30, bracelets would be $15 and rings would be $10. I did not account for the cost of the materials or the labor. I was doing this in my free time and didn’t think of charging anything for my time, because I was getting money in return.
I believe it was a year into me selling at this shop when my wife and I had our kids at a local flea market and a vendor was selling a few watch parts out an old cigar box. His dad ran a watch repair shop and had passed away so he wanted to get rid of the box. I had asked him how much it was for a few of the watches inside.
“Excuse me, how much for the watches?” I asked.
“Make me an offer for all of it,” he replied.
I turned to my wife, looked at her, curiously and then she spoke out.
“Will you take forty dollars?” She asked.
“Sold!” He exclaimed and just like that, I was walking out of the market with more than 7 pounds of watches and watch parts.
My wife had grown up and was accustomed to the finer things in life and as such, she had suggested to me that I look at ways of upgrading my art. What she had meant, was that instead of using the $2 base-metal chain at a craft store, I should now look at using stainless steel or silver plated chains. Using better materials means that I can alter my prices to compensate for this. I also started to use Swarovski crystals and other jewelry findings, with my real watch parts. This was huge upgrade to my previous ideas and with this process I also found out what ideas had worked and which ones did not.
About a year after the flea market find and my new pieces had been selling at the Curious Shoppe, my wife and I were invited to a family vacation in Las Vegas. We wandered around until we did some window shopping and then browsing at a store inside of the Planet Hollywood Casino Mall. The store was called Club Tattoo and besides being a tattoo merchant, they also had some clothing and accessories that matched my new jewelry style. I walked up to one of the employees working the service desk and with some push from my wife, asked to see the manager on duty. I told her that I made jewelry from antique watches and they would fit well with their brand and clothing. She asked me if I had any pictures with me and I showed her the necklace that I had made for myself, which I was wearing. She loved it and leaned over the counter and grabbed the necklace I was wearing to inspect it and compliment me on it. She had given me the owner’s card and I contacted her as soon as I got back home.
The Tattoo store was doing an interesting selling set-up with me, in which they would pay me for the wholesale inventory of the items. This is the first time that someone had purchased the items up-front. I had then found out through contact with their buyer, that they had taken the item that I had sold to them, at my cost, and then multiplied that cost by 2.3 and then the finished value is the amount that they would list it for. So a necklace that I would spend and hour on (at $20 an hour) and then had $4 of materials, would be added together for a total of $24. My wife had read somewhere about adding in a profit. So, we multiplied that cost of goods amount by 1.5 ($24 * 1.5) and had come up with 36 dollars. So, I would sell that piece for $36 at the Curious Shoppe or on my Etsy store or other vendor markets. The Tattoo Store, would take that $36 item that they paid me for and list it at their store for $82.80 and they were selling like hotcakes! Within a month, I had a second order from them for my jewelry!
My jewelry was selling so well, that the buyer had asked if I could send more to their San Francisco store, and start selling there. I was happy, because I was making some extra cash. The selling and the pricing at the Tattoo stores, also gave me an idea of how my prices should be listed and from then on, whenever I sold at a convention or market, I would list my items at that higher amount.
End of Part 1