Art – v – Commerce – the Designer’s Dilemma

I have been designing and making jewellery for a long time and like many others try to sell my work. A few years ago, prompted by a newspaper ad, I decided to try my luck at an annual craft fair held at a popular venue on the North Norfolk coast. My family and I made the hour long trip with a car load of jewellery I had made and we set up our stall outside a friend’s coffee shop. We were glad to get this position as we thought that a lot of people would pass the stall and take a look on the way to get some refreshment. It was a blazing hot day and setting up the stall was not easy. Parking was limited and we had to lug all the stock plus the table quite a long way from the car and that was before we had even set up. Well it proved a three ‘P’ day … that’s shorthand for Pick up, Put down and Push off (and that’s putting it politely) …. Midday passed and I hadn’t sold a single thing. By mid afternoon we decided to pack up and go home.

When I got home I spread out all the jewellery on the table and took a long hard look at what I’d made … the result of many evenings sitting in front of the TV with the beads, thread and findings on a tray putting it all together. I’d made chunky necklaces with bracelets and earrings to match. I’d made delicate necklaces with bracelets and earrings to match. I had tried to please everyone and in the end pleased no one – not even myself. I was so dissatisfied with what I’d made that I took the whole lot to the charity shop.

You see I had failed to listen to that still small voice inside me which said ‘Listen to your heart. Follow your instincts. Don’t just make something because you think it will sell. Make what comes out of your imagination’.

It was a tough learning experience but now I do listen to that still small voice. If people don’t like what I make that’s fine as jewellery (and for that matter all art forms) are a matter of personal taste; but of course I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t hope that someone somewhere will look at one of my creations and think ‘Yes, I like that’ and maybe even want to buy it either for themselves or as a present for someone.

At least I know that each piece of jewellery I make is an honest piece and I put my best efforts into making it wearable and as well put together as I can make it.

I would be interested to hear whether anyone else has had a similar selling experience and how they reacted to the ‘Art – v – Commerce’ dilemma … or indeed whether, in their view, the dilemma exists at all?

Comments invited please!

Until next time ….


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