My long term goal was/is to make finished jewelry with my beads and sell it to galleries. As I traveled along this path I realized that I needed more control over the quality and pricing of components to go with my beads, and began purchasing supplies to accomplish my goal. Then I realized that it would work best for me if I sold the beads I was discovering, in essence, sharing my finds with others like myself, and helping myself by recouping some of my investment. I decided a website and internet business would be the most compatible with my studio life, so I could fill orders, stay home and get some work done too. So, bellomodo.com was born, and now two years later, I am still working on the website, getting it fine tuned and adding new and interesting beads and products that I find along the way.
I am in the final stages of completing a new shop here on my property, to house my business, office, and studio. We have moved most of our stock into the main floor and are in the process of making a home for everything, a very satisfying, if time consuming process! The second floor will house the office, art studio for picture taking and marketing, and a compilation room for finishing jewelry. The rest of the building will house the studio where lampworking and metal working will take place. I expect the studio to take at least another 6 to 8 weeks, and maybe more to get finished. I am looking forward to making beads again as the studio I was using is partly dismantled so I have not been able to make beads since last fall.
Back to the store: I offer among the Swarovski Crystals, Japanese Seed beads, specialty findings and stringing supplies a nice selection of handmade beads and findings. I offer ceramic beads and pendants made by a wonderful couple from Bulgaria Vladislav and Kremena Ivanova, also Marsha Neal's Ceramic Beads will soon grace the pages of our website. I also offer the wonderfully pleasing polymer clay beads made by Heather Powers, as well as glass beads made by myself, Robin Poff, Paula Radke, and soon Karen Bye. I offer findings by Green Girl, Marti Brown, Holly Gage, Burgard Studio, and Saki Silver. I am always on the lookout for beads and findings I think deserve attention, such as the great resin beads I recently found. They are made in Germany, and have a quality to the finish that is more attractive than any I have seen before. The shapes are more interesting too, shaped like pods and rocks, and some are even plated with precious metals.
Humblebeads by Heather Powers
As our website ages we are selling more online. I strive to stock products that have value, that are beautiful, functional and intrinsically desirable. I struggle to explain myself here, but what I really want to do is be of assistance to my customers, to make available products that will help them to make better pieces, to further the cause so to speak of their own art. Similar to what I want to do for myself I guess, and in the process we all benefit.
As for what our customers prefer, online we sell a lot of Vintaj Natural Brass, Delica Beads and multi beads mixes, C-lon threads and cords, and Swarovski Crystals. In the handmade arena, we sell Green Girl beads well online, due I think to how familiar people are with them. We sell a much wider array of products at shows, lots of crystals and findings, and handmade beads really shine at shows, no surprise to anyone, as seeing is believing!
One of my business policies is to ship free. The shipping fee thing has gotten so out of control, with many businesses making a profit on shipping. I consider shipping to be a business expense, and as such consider it to be part of my overhead. I am mindful of prices, striving to get a fair price, one that allows the artist to profit too, but one that makes it possible for a reasonable mark-up. I find that my customers reorder much more often and I think it has to do with the shipping policy. In this day of high gas prices, I find shopping on the internet to be more practical. I can stay home, and spend my precious free time in my garden or studio, and make decisions about what to purchase on the internet, at a time of day or night of my choosing. No gas required!
Recently I upgraded the software for the website so that I can add a Learning Center, with a glossary of terms and techniques, Articles and Reviews about products and how to make use of them, including Tutorials, and a Customer Gallery. I plan to add a color inspiration page as well, posting pictures to inspire. Along with the new software on the site came a Wish List feature for customers to use to save products in for future consideration, as well as the ability to look back in their order history to see what the have purchased previously. Of course, all of this is in process, and labor of love that is on-going.
Clasp by Holly Gage
How do I stay tuned into trends in the bead business? Well, I read every magazine, attend every show I can, read everything on the net possible, watch color trends, and perhaps most importantly, listen to my own heart, and follow the inspiration that the world brings. I love color, and am so inspired by interesting color combinations. In my garden I see all sorts of color and texture combinations that lead the imagination in new directions.Classes, and education: I am planning on offering classes in the studio after the building is finally finished. *Generally, the business is online only but we will host open houses once or twice a year, inviting regular customers in to the studio. I look forward to getting to this stage!
When considering the competition from cheap imports and knockoffs, I just don't worry about it. In the glass world, there are always knock-offs, but the difference in quality is huge, and I do what I can to educate people about the differences. I operate on the philosophy that people will gravitate towards beauty. I guess I don't expect to appeal to everyone, just those interested in quality and who appreciate handmade beads and supplies. My silk cords are hand dyed in Oregon. Much cheaper ones are available from China, but I prefer the relationship I have with my supplier and the quality that she delivers. I know she cares and its personal for her, as it is for me.
Trends and the future? I am really interested in learning Kumihimo, and we are in the process of developing a new line of beaded jewelry kits. We find that people want something to make but are insecure about their skill levels and so a kit fills the bill. I think that as the dollar gets stretched that people will want to make their own jewelry instead of doing more expensive activities like traveling or purchasing ready made. The satisfaction of having a hand in the making of a piece can give a world weary person some respite and a good feeling.
Discount code for ABS readers: Enter the word beads in the discount box during checkout for a 10% discount. Code will be good until April 30th, 2008.
*Editors Note: Bello Modo can be found at most of the major bead shows in Oregon and Washington, including Bead Expo, March 27-30th!
Thanks to Pamela Maxfield, the owner of Bello Modo for sharing her thoughts on her shop while she is busy getting ready for an amazing show this weekend. If you are going to attend Bead Exop stop by and let her know you saw her interview on the ABS and pick up a few of your favorite art beads!