Always take written notes. Get their email or phone number. Do not be afraid to ask for a deposit, particularly from first time customers, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for enough to cover any out-of-pocket expenses.
Saturday 18 April:
Last week at the market I received a turquoise bracelet commission from Marlene, who will be attending a wedding in October, so we have plenty of time -- I like her already! Marlene told me her dress is grey and very simple in style, she won't be wearing any other jewellery, wants an off-the-charts turquoise bracelet that's chunky but not blingy -- and also requires that the design be something she could wear daily.
As a side note re the dress, normally I would also ask to see the item of clothing or other jewellery that is to be matched as fibre, texture and sheen all affect any colour. Is this a blue-grey, green-grey, yellow-grey or purple-grey? Pale, medium or dark grey? In this case, the beads are all different turquoises and the bracelet a statement, standalone item, so given the design parameters I think it's safe in this case to assume that whatever grey the dress is (even its style) is of very little importance.
After looking at bracelets I have on the table, she said she didn't want one with a clasp, that she prefers the stretchy bracelets. I let Marlene try on a bracelet that fits me to figure out a good fit for her: just snug on me should fit her perfectly. I've found fit to be quite different than length; bead chunkiness being the major factor. We also determined her budget.
I showed her examples of my "good" turquoise, the Sleeping Beauty, Castle Dome and Kingman, but nope, even the nuggets were all too blue and way too tiny, shiny, perfect and pretty. We need more chunk. The Ma'an Shan nuggets were heading in the right direction because of the matrix and shape, but the strings are graded, so all the beads are roughly the same size and colour distribution. Then she saw my rough donuts and pendants, in particular the Chinese spiderweb, and said that was the idea of the look she was after.
Going through an elimination process with your customer is important. I discovered a long time ago that people may not know what they want, but they are very clear when it comes to what they don't want or like. I'm sure you've all either said yourselves or heard a variation on: "I don't know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it." Just as important as budget, it's critical to find out early on in the commission process what they absolutely do NOT like/want.
Saturday 25 April:
This morning at the market I spent two hours sorting and sifting through my stash of miscellaneous chunky Chinese turquoise. I was a little stumped in which direction I should go and was thinking right about now I needed her input because these particular beads I'd initially chosen were maybe a bit on the large size for a bracelet.
From a technical design perspective, I also needed something to smooth out and cover the "corners" created by such large beads. After trying and rejecting umpteen sizes and shapes of silvery pewter beads as being too big or too blingy I decided to incorporate these 4/0 black glass beads. I had first thought about using matte black beads, but I think the gloss gives off just that subtle titch of formality and elegance. Copper wouldn't work in this instance because it'd give a too casual vibe -- have to keep in mind this is for a wedding. But there's no reason that later on we couldn't restring the bracelet with copper to change the whole look and feel of the bracelet.
At this point, Marlene dropped by to -- yay! --see how things were going, and she approved of the direction I'd taken with the black beads. We discussed whether it should have a "back" and a "front" (no) -- and she chose the final large black spiderweb bead. I subbed out a couple of smaller beads for the large one. She left me to it, and I played more with the bead order.
This is what I ended up with:
Sunday 26 April:
Living with it a day and looking at the picture with fresh eyes, I find I don't like that there are four of the large pewter spacer beads. At least one of them will be coming off. I'm also questioning whether I should have the two pewter beads flanking the large blue turquoise bead. This was a leftover design element from the bracelet having a front and back, with one main focal bead. All this is to say I really do need to get into the habit of photographing things before tying off the Stretch Magic (or crimping the wire) in order to check the balance. Measure twice, cut once; but photograph as many times as necessary first! If nothing else, it's getting expensive tossing half the roll of Stretch Magic or stringing wire.
Here are two more versions:
10:00 a.m. Monday morning:
Coming back with fresh eyes to look at the photos, I think I prefer the version with three pewter beads.
I'd sent the original picture to Ruth (who works with me at The Gem Expo) and she wrote back:
"This is really lovely, ... something she will wear daily. It shouts "powerful woman, powerful love" to me."
I'll definitely let you know what Marlene thinks when she picks up the bracelet this coming Saturday.
Please email me with comments or if you would like to commission something. Thanks for looking!