I try to make an effort to see what other designers are making and occasionally take an afternoon to peruse the offerings at local boutiques. I’m not looking for ideas to “borrow”, but rather for styles that seem to be popular. I used to simply look at what was being offered. Is big and chunky “in” or is light and airy more popular? Are there any new color combinations that I’ve been missing? While this may sound like a good idea, it hit me that it’s possible that what I see a lot of in the stores isn’t really what’s popular, but rather what’s left over. In that case, the question could be “what isn’t here that’s already sold?”
Last week I tried a new approach. I lurked. Although I must have looked like a shopper, I was really watching and listening to see what customers liked and what they asked for. It was all that I could do to keep from giving my business card to the man who wanted to purchase a double strand of turquoise for his wife and was told he would need to by two necklaces of different lengths. I also wanted to tell him that what he thought was turquoise was actually magnesite; but, since I didn’t want to be escorted out of the establishment, I kept my mouth shut and my card in my pocket. Another customer wanted something light and airy with pearls for her adult granddaughter. She was fortunate to find a necklace that would work and I didn’t even try to accost her as she left with her purchase. I really wanted to tell her that what the clerk described as “handmade” looked strangely like a chain marketed at the bead shows, albeit the pearls were probably added by hand.
My other task as a lurker, is to see if my pieces look just like those made by other designers. I’ve never believed in sameness and don’t want to replicate what’s already available. I used to apply this approach when I wanted to author a new book for school teachers. I would study the books available from various publishers to see if what I wanted to author had already been written. If it had, then I turned to another theme. Then, I would talk to publishers’ representatives at conferences to see what kind of books teachers asked for that the publishers were unable to provide. My last book evolved from ideas hatched when a publisher said, “the teachers really want a book about . . . . “ I think great ideas for jewelry can emerge the same way. What do you hear shoppers in the boutiques say they want? Are they looking for a particular length or color that has been hard to find. Is that a design opening that needs to be filled?
Speaking of shopping, you probably know the rule for this time of year. Never go to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving or the day before Christmas Eve. It’s dangerous! My father and I made this rule long ago and I take it to extremes. There are all kinds of substitutions that you can make for items you forgot to purchase such as corn juice for milk in bread, honey for corn syrup in baked goods, etc. No matter what, DON’T go to the store and if you simply HAVE to have a certain item, remember this rule: Send Someone Else!