Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pretty vs. Cute...

I've been thinking lately about what the vast ;o) marketplace for polymer clay jewelry wants.

Every time I go to list another item at Etsy-- or to photograph a batch of items, since I have to do that before I can list them-- I ask myself, "What do they want? Which item out of the inventory I've been building will be the one that catches someone's eye-- captures her imagination-- and makes her reach for her wallet?" (g) And now that I've been listing things for a couple of weeks, I'm even starting to ask myself that when I sit down at my clay table. (Not everything I make is made with a view to sell, but it's certainly something worth thinking about. Why make a hundred versions of something that no-one wants?)

At this point, my Etsy shop is still in its infancy. I have one person so far who's interested in buying something, but the sale isn't even official yet. So needless to say, I haven't quite found my niche in the polymer clay marketplace. Maybe I never will, in fact! But I prefer to be optimistic and believe that eventually I'll be able to make a little money on the side from my craft. I'm not expecting much, but something.

Even though it's probably too early to be drawing any conclusions, I can't help but gather data and analyze it. Which items get the most views? Why? Is it because there are more people doing searches for that type of item-- or are they finding it in some other way? I have a Flickr page with lots of polymer clay photos. Which pictures get the most comments? Do these people look at this item in hopes of making their own version of it, or is it something they might be interested in purchasing? There's no way to know the story behind each and every view an item gets, either at Etsy or Flickr, but I can't help speculating.

At first, I was disappointed that my faux opals at Flickr got so few views. I began to think that perhaps no-one liked faux opals these days-- so passe! (g)-- or that maybe my photographs weren't showing them to their best advantage. Then we got the opal tutorial on-line and I posted another photo of some of the same faux opals-- just fixed up into pendants-- with a link to the tutorial. Lo and behold, several people commented on them! Maybe they simply hadn't seen the other photo, or maybe the tutorial prompted them to comment-- or maybe they liked them better in their more "finished" state. Who knows?!

So I'm fairly certain that I shouldn't draw too many conclusions just yet, but I can't help but make a few observations:

--Observation 1: My most popular photo at Flickr is a "crackled inlay" bead. Four people count it as a favorite, and it's been viewed 116 times. A similar bead, made into the focal point of a necklace over at Etsy, hasn't been "hearted" and has only been viewed 18 times since Feb. 9th. Not bad, but not my most popular item.

+++Conclusion: I don't really know... That people at Flickr and people at Etsy like different things? The people who frequent my Flickr photos are, I know, almost all polymer clay hobbyists/artists themselves. They're probably looking at things more with a view to find inspiration than the people at Etsy are. They're more interested in new techniques, etc. than someone at Etsy is.

--Observation 2: My second-most-popular photo at Flickr is a set of mokume gane beads that are probably some of my least favorite MG beads. Or at least some that I wouldn't have listed as favorites.

+++Conclusion: People don't necessarily react to things the way I expect them to-- or how I myself react. Yes, I know it's basic, but I have to constantly remind myself that my perception of the world isn't the only perception. I'm such an egoist! ;o) Just because I love something doesn't mean that it will sell well, and just because I don't think something is my best work doesn't mean that it won't sell. So I shouldn't be afraid to put something out there for consideration, even if I'm not blown away by it, myself. Maybe I'm just not looking at it the right way.

--Observation 3: To date, my most-viewed item (58 views) at Etsy is a miniature cookie. The miniature cookies seem to be attracting a (comparatively) good bit of attention at Flickr, too. Meanwhile, though I get an occasional flutter of activity over my mokume gane pieces, they're not getting as many views or "hearts" as the cookies.

+++Conclusion: Maybe people aren't as interested in "pretty" (the mokume gane) as they are in "cute" (the mini cookie). (Or maybe I'm better at cute than I am at pretty...? Or my idea of pretty isn't other people's idea of pretty?) Maybe there's more of a market right now for "cute" than there is for pretty. Or maybe the market at Etsy in particular is more geared toward "cute" stuff. It is more of an "indie-art" community, I think, than some larger places, such as eBay.

--Observation 4: Throw everything I just wrote right out the window, because my second-most-viewed item (44 views) at Etsy is a heart-shaped faux opal, which while it might be considered slightly "cute" (heart-shaped as it is), would fit more neatly into the "pretty" group, I think.

+++Conclusion: I shouldn't be drawing conclusions yet. I should just continue to put up a wide variety of pieces until I make enough sells to get an idea of what my customers like. And even then, it can't hurt to have some variety out there. In some ways, I guess it would be good for me if people wanted to buy my "cute" cookies, because they take a lot less work than my "pretty" mokume gane pieces. But on the other hand, I really enjoy making the mokume gane pieces-- well, until I've been sanding for an hour and still have more sanding to do. (g) Even if they're easier to make, I'd get bored making mini cookies all the time, if I couldn't take a break and do something else.

+-+-+Ultimate Conclusion: I need to just let things be for a while. Do what feels right and not worry about anything else. Or at least worry as little as I can manage. ;o)


Dragon Whimsy said...

Speaking for myself, I like pretty things, but I'm /very/ picky about my pretties. I like things that tend to be elegant yet unusual, often silvery or celtic. (I don't wear jewelry much any more, though.) It's hard for me to describe what exactly "grabs" me, but I rarely see it.

But it's easy for me to "bond" with something that's just plain cute or whimsical. There's your cookie pendants, for example... they stand out. They're unusual, memorable, cute, and you're not likely to find something exactly like them elsewhere. You have some other lovely pendants in your shop, but they don't hold my attention in quite the same way. That's not to say they aren't good, or even that they're not as good as cookie-pendants-- it's just that they affect me differently.

Michael said...

Thanks for the comment!

Yes, there are so many different tastes-- and so much jewelry out there for sale!-- that it must take a while for just the right person to see just the right piece.

Some people on Etsy (and elsewhere, too, of course) seem to have found their niche. They "specialize" in a particular style or item. If I found that one thing seemed to attract more people than anything else, I might decide to "specialize", too, but right now, I'm just letting my shop represent a variety of the techniques I'm working with.

I can't decide if I think the variety will help (appeal to a wider range of people) or hurt (confuse people or have them miss seeing the one thing they might have liked). (g) But anyway, I guess I'll try it for a while and see what happens. :o)