Friday, July 15, 2011

Creating Hits and Misses

Makers come up with a LOT of ideas for products. We are sometimes bombarded hourly with brand new insights or variations on existing pieces. This usually happens right before we really need to fall asleep, and/or at the height of fevered seasons like fall when making prototypes for new products is impossible because we are in full on production mode for the holiday rush. We make lists, try not to forget the ideas and hope that later, in January, we'll still have the same excitement and enthusiasm we did when first the lightning struck.

When you surf our polished online shops or peruse our carefully laid out craft show booths, you are seeing the best of our work, the items we dreamed and then somehow conjured into existence. One in every color and size. A lot of work has gone into those collections and we are hoping that our creations are met with excitement and purchases. We all want a hit product.

When the items we perfected over weeks, months, years are met with oohs and ahhs and smiles, there is no better feeling on earth. But sometimes our brilliant idea is...

...a dud.

A collection that in the dreaming stages seemed like it couldn't miss is suddenly a stack of baggage. Overstock. Discontinued. Clearance. It's heartbreaking, baffling, and exhausting.

We spent so much time planning, making prototypes, perfecting and finally producing this adorable thing, then sent it out into the world with vulnerable hope. Why doesn't anyone love it?

It's possible we just didn't get it in front of the right eyes, or it's priced wrong for its ideal customer and we can't reduce it because then we'd be taking a bath. Or it's the wrong season, or we are ahead of our time (I prefer that one), or really, it's just not what people want.

I can't imagine throwing something I made away, sometimes I'll give things away. Mostly I try to adapt the ill begotten thing into a new thing and see if that changes its luck.

For example (as much as this hurts, I am going to give an example! Deep breath):

I made these tiny crochet flower earrings for summer last year. I crocheted for hours, making matching flowers in every color, excitedly running to the store for new string options. I starched each flower a little bit, not too much, so it would hold its shape. I spent forever sorting and matching vintage buttons for the little centers, sewed them on with carefully selected thread. Attached sterling earring components. Put them on cards I designed, printed and cut apart. Took and edited photos. All of this. And the response was...crickets. Nothing. I had a dud.

Once the shock and disappointment wore off, I decided I could re-purpose the flowers into rings:

And guess what? The rings are selling.

So my points are twofold. First, for the crafter, I feel for you. I know how it goes and I'm sending virtual hugs for all your unloved and discarded brilliant ideas. I hope you are able to morph them into hot sellers.

Second, I guess I wanted to show the shopping public how much work we put into things that don't pan out in order for us to have a collection that does appeal. What you don't see are all the mistakes, false starts and huge investments of time and resources into dead-end ideas. Making things for a living is hard! Figuring out what people want to buy that we also want to make is a constant struggle.

And we love it, wouldn't trade it for anything.


  1. Those rings are adorable!

    I do love my red crochet flower earrings and I get tons of compliments whenever I wear them. I'm sorry they were a dud - I just must be waaaaay ahead of my tine ;-)

  2. Ha! Ha! Ha! I know exactly what you mean about the duds. In fact, I made some flower earrings myself, with beads and everything...and they're still sitting in my shop. Every single one of them! ^_^ Oh well! I'm alright with the fact that I'm making what "I" like. If everybody else doesn't love's their loss! ^_^ I love your "duds" too though. Just saying! :-))

  3. Marianne, I thought you had the open circle ones? Those were a hit! Glad you love them :)

    PoetessWug: I knew other crafters would feel my pain! LOL :) Thanks for sharing your similar experience.

  4. Hi Liz! I just came across your blog via Twitter (and I actually have the Handmade Marketplace book too!). Cute blog and extremely cute etsy shop! I LOVE your cupcake pincushion rings. Can't wait to read more about your crafting adventures! :-)

  5. Oh it's so true! I can never guess which ones of my crochet patterns are going to be hits... some of my favorites end up being total duds!

    But, I guess if we could guess which ones would be rock starts, it wouldn't be a challenge ;)

  6. This is a wonderful post, full of honesty and pain and humor and I love it.

    I especially like how this story has a happy ending. The rings are charming and delightful.

  7. I love that this post ends on such a positive note, with those adorable rings!

    Duds are painful and I admire you for telling this story. My duds usually hang out in zip lock bags while I decide how low I want to price them. If the beads are great (just combined in a dudley way), I will deconstruct and recycle the silver and the beads. The rest stay in the sale bin until the right pair of eyes finds them.

    (Sometimes I can't even look in my own sale bin ... the pain ...)

  8. I have such a horrible time giving up on my duds! I did deconstruct a bunch of earrings last year after I had put them on sale and still nobody wanted them. It felt good to finally make a decision about those pieces, and I was able to move on pretty quickly.

  9. Oh Liz, I love that you're always so honest and willing to put yourself out there. I'm glad you've found a new way to make something you loved work. Hopefully one of these days I'll design a non-dud! LOL

  10. Great Post Liz. I really enjoyed reading this. You are very brave too - I can totally understand the "dud" thing - been there (in fact am still there with a few things lol!). Love reading your blog all the time x

  11. oh, i so know what you mean. i like your earrings but it's nice that you were able to turn them into something else that sells too :)
    usually i can't take my things apart too much-i may cut into fabrics and take off buttons-but they usually sit around until they become presents ;)

  12. Hi Juli! Thanks for checking out my blog and your kind words, I appreciate it :)

    Stacey, it certainly is a challenge, it makes guessing right such a great feeling!

    Thanks mom!! xoxo

    LOL Vicki, I hear you, I have plenty of those duds as well, hidden away in ziploc bags.

    Liz, I know what you mean about waiting as long as possible before making the decision to end the duds :)

    Ana, thanks! You don't have any duds, you just need more eyes to see your gorgeous work :)

    Pips, thanks so much!!

    Andrea, thanks, I liked those earrings too!! People would be lucky to get your "duds" as gifts!!

  13. Word! And yes, those rings are outstanding!

  14. I can imagine how hard it must be when a design you've worked on for countless hours just doesn't work. I feel your pain. But, how wonderful to turn it into something new and beautiful! I love the rings!! Hmmm...I can also see the connection to a work of fiction here. Funny, huh?
    Keep creating and posting, Liz!

  15. Thanks for sharing sweet Liz :D I'm left with a bittersweet feeling after reading this. I'm totally with you, I've had so many duds! it's always a disapointment. Many end up in a bag in the cupboard lost & forgotten. But it heartens me too that it's not just me that goes through it. I guess its the risk we all must take, it's that buzz & excitment we get for creating some thing new. Planing then having a finished item in your hands that you have created. I still get buzz every time I get a new idea. I've decided to let go of the worry of "what if it dosen't sell" and just go with the love of making new stuff, and I do really love it :D:D:D

  16. I love this post. :) I know how the ideas tend to hit right as you're falling asleep, and right now I have so many I don't think I'll ever catch up with my brain. It feels like they're all piling up behind my eyes! People tell me to write them all down, but I feel like it might be for the best if I forgot one or two of them. ;)

  17. Thanks for your "dud" article. I've handmade and marketed handmade jewelry twice - one successfully and one not. My latest outlet is an Etsy store featuring my handmade cards. They're nicely done, and all proceeds go to finance my volunteer project Operation Write Home, joing thousands of cardmakers who send their cards to our heroes overseas so that they, in turn, can choose lovely cards to send their loved ones. But I'm just not getting noticed, and I have to say that feeling like a wallflower is a crummy feeling.
    But, thanks for your candor. And I love your work, even your crocheted flower earrings - I make those little devils for my crocheted hats, and I KNOW how much work went into those. Thanks again!

  18. Such pretty flowers! I can see why they are selling as rings :) Great idea! I was going to suggest trying a couple magnets too! You just never know!

  19. good morning, I love the rings, I'm looking for the silver rings itself to attach the flowers to. I was also looking for earrings as well. can you suggest a place for me to look? thank you in advance, I loved the earrings and the ring.
    lisa simmons

    1. Try online retailers like Fire Mountain Gems or even supply sellers on Etsy.