Design Business Decisions

By on November 25, 2015
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by Judy Ellis,

WireJewelry Tip for November 25th, 2015

Design Business Decisions

by Dawn Horner

Today, we have a great article from Dawn Horner. If you are just getting started in the jewelry making business, this is a great article to help you get going!


Decisions, Decisions – for Fun or for Business?

The decisions made from beginning to end in the design process will affect the look and results of your hard given efforts as an artist and define your style and brand. When just starting out, the field of jewelry design might feel like navigating a huge forest with everything from little saplings to giant redwood trees.

Learning and perfecting new skills is the forest path we all start on. Most wire/metal work beginners don’t have large budgets and are drawn to working in economical artistic mixed or “base” metals due to necessity. Base metals (non-precious) like aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, nickel & steel all have their own personalities and will behave differently as do the precious metals of gold, silver and platinum. How do you decide which to use?

First, get clear about why you make jewelry and specifically the next piece you’re planning…

1. Are you playing or growing? This question defines your goals, price setting and budget. Someone who is creating for fun and to fund their own enjoyment will make different decisions than someone growing a budget for increased volume, materials and branding expenses in the future.

2. What is your desire? You might want to work in gold or silver but have a copper budget. See question #1, maybe it’s time to put some things out there in a way that helps build your bank for more expensive materials and gizmos.

3. Who is your “audience?” You may opt to use less expensive materials on a piece for practice or for yourself, while jewelry for sale should match the style and budget of the customers you hope to serve.

4. What’s your style and what do YOU like? Making jewelry for an “audience” or customer that’s desirable but doesn’t share your own style might lose its allure quickly, leaving you making designs you don’t even like. To thine own self be true….


5. Will this be a one-of-a-kind design or one to be repeated for a show or multiple stores? The bigger question here is do you have a reliable source or supplier? There’s nothing worse than landing an account or repeat great sales of a particular piece only to not be able to find the pieces/parts again in the future.

6. Will the metal you choose behave in the way you need it to? Brass can be affordable, but the temper or hardness of it means it might not behave like soft copper when you try to do super intricate wirework. Even seasoned designers with rich cash-flow use base metals for testing ideas and tweaking designs. These prototypes can be experimented with, worn and abused to test durability and reaction to time and exposure. All that trial and error makes you, the designer, the best informed person to speak to your designs at markets and what makes them stand out among the other “trees” in the forest.


Learn about your materials to decrease some frustrations when starting out, but also allow for making mistakes. You can’t create great things without experiencing a lot of failures to draw from. (Someone put that on a coffee cup for me…)


I hope you enjoyed this article from Dawn Horner! Check back for more great tips or articles from our new contributors!

Happy Wrapping!


  1. avatar

    Judy Bjorkman

    November 25, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Dawn Horner’s article makes some good points. As for No. 3, “Your audience,” I have found it ironic over the last 40 years working in brass, copper, and nickel-silver, that my best customers are those who can well afford silver and gold. (I don’t do wire-wrapping but mainly texturing and hard-soldering.)

  2. avatar

    najat bendris

    July 6, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Hi, Judy
    Thank you for this comments. May I have the pattern for number 6. I have many ammonites from Africa and I want to experience to create jewelry like the one posted. Thank you and have a nice day.