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Tips, Techniques, and Questions -- Technical questions or tips

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  #1  
Old 2015-06-01, 3:58am
sallysqueak sallysqueak is offline
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Default Question regarding the profitability of glass bead making

Hi all

I wonder if you can help me.

I'm considering setting up a business creating glass jewellery, specifically memorial beads for pandora bracelets to begin with. I'm based in Nottingham, UK, and would mainly be selling the beads online (hopefully!)

I've been looking into the costs to set up and the ongoing costs of production, and I'm estimating around 5 expenses per bead to create, which I believe can be sold for around 30 each. Does this sound about right to you? I know there will be up front costs which I'm estimating will be around 100 without a kiln, which I can possibly use for 7.50 a go in a shop nearby, until I can afford my own, but I'm looking at the price per bead here.

I do need this to be a business rather than just a hobby, as I need an extra income to fit around the kids, so I just wondered, in your opinion is glass bead making potentially profitable enough to create a small business out of? I don't have any experience yet so will need to learn the skill, but I have what I believe is a good customer base of pet owners I can target with the product. I would just welcome your opinion as to it's viability as a profitable business.

I know I have a lot to learn, but before I do, I just want to check I'm not barking up the wrong tree with this idea!

Thanks in advance for your help.

Sally
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  #2  
Old 2015-06-01, 5:18am
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The first thing I would do would be to take a beginner class from someone. It is fun, and some can make perfect beads fairly quickly, but most take lots of practice before you make a consistently good bead. If you are putting cremains in them, out of respect you want them to be right first try, not having to make several or even a few to get a good one. So be sure you like it enough to put the practice in that you will need before you "go live" and offer them for sale. Also check around for competition, there are people offering this service already (Etsy has some for example).

There are some who can make money at this, but there are a lot more of us who have way more invested than we will ever make out of it.

If you do decide to go forward, I hope it goes well for you.

PS. Expenses per bead sound a bit high for some beads and low for others, it depends on what you make.
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Old 2015-06-01, 5:57am
sallysqueak sallysqueak is offline
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Thanks for the advice Eileen

I had a look for local classes, but can't seem to find any. I have found some instructional DVD's for sale from a lady in Cornwall, but I'm just waiting to hear back from her to see whether these include lessons on adding cremains.

I've never done anything like this before, and have absolutely no equipment as yet, but I'm finding the tutorials on youtube I've seen so far fascinating!

I briefly considered maybe Resin would be the way to go as there seems to be less outlay/less danger, but ultimately I think people would rather buy glass jewellery.

I guess people do make businesses out of lamp work jewellery, as the lady in Cornwall for example has a shop with small items such as necklaces with glass pendants and beads. I guess she's making some kind of living wage out of it to be able to afford rent

Thanks again for the help

Sally
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  #4  
Old 2015-06-01, 7:29am
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I believe there is a forum based in the UK too, and perhaps you could find an instructor through them (but don't abandon LE, there is a ton of good information here!)
I think it is this one: http://www.frit-happens.co.uk/forum/

Whatever you end up doing, good luck! There are certainly people who do make a living from glass, and who knows, you might be one.
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  #5  
Old 2015-06-01, 9:35am
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check out the Devardi Glass vids....lots of great info for newcomers.

https://www.youtube.com/user/mailbuggy#play/uploads
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Old 2015-06-01, 1:31pm
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I believe the lampworked beads are not enjoying the same popularity as it did before and has become more and more difficult to make a decent living doing it. I am not to say one can't but it will require a lot of practice before one is competent enough to be competitive.

As for start up costs, to do it correctly with proper ventilation system, torch, oxygen, gas, kiln, tools, glass, etc. etc. etc., this is not an inexpensive endeavor. We are looking at about US$2,000 minimum.
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  #7  
Old 2015-06-01, 1:47pm
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Sally, I'm afraid, 100 pounds will not be sufficient... It is probably 1 pair of glasses and 1 HotHead torch. And a sample pack of glass. In addition you'll need to construct the ventilation system, you'll need some basic tools (not those fashionable molds, just ordinary pliers, mandrels - you can buy them cheap from welding and hardware stores), but anyway.

Also you need to be prepared that not less than a pound of glass will melt away just for nothing. May be you'll manage to skip this period of "uglys and not-so-goods", but just be prepared.

Regarding the stores in UK - the one I've checked by myself is www.warm-glass.co.uk (now the international shipping rates stop me from ordering heavy items but I bought my kiln from them several years ago and the customer service was just fine). They do not carry 104 glass, only Bullseye (90), but the assortment of dichro is nice.

If you decide to go into it and buy kiln at some point, you can add fused juwelry to your assortment. And probably metal clay - cooksongold.com is another excellent supplier located in UK. May be even beadmaking (seedbeads and crystals go very well with lampworked beads). And check out the online stores in Europe - the shipment costs within Europe are pretty moderate (I currently use berlinbeads.de as my source of 104 glass, the shop is bilingual so there are no problems to order and their prices look reasonable).

Regarding the classes - there are quite a lot of videos at youtube with artists from UK, may be it is worth searching and e-mailing someone located more or less close to you?

Last edited by Katia; 2015-06-01 at 2:01pm.
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  #8  
Old 2015-06-01, 6:19pm
losthelm losthelm is offline
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It takes a bit to go from complete beginner to selling pieces.
A bit longer to go from selling pieces to quiting the day job.

With more people doing crafts and making art the market is getting more competitive everyday.
Its almost easier to sell tools and equipment online than actually make finished pieces.
Shows and shops are just the opposite finished pieces sell fairly well but tools and equipment rarely move.
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  #9  
Old 2015-06-01, 7:29pm
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And I will add that there is also the business of running a business.

Getting your name out there and generating a buzz to get your sales up are marketing skills and there are lot of kids who go to school for half a decade just to learn the tricks of that trade.

Making beads is a lot of fun.
Making good beads take a good deal of practice and no small amount of study from diverse sources.
Making great art from molten glass is a skill some of us still aspire to even after decades of trying.

And then there the fine art of getting the rent paid from all of the above.


I will never tell another not to attempt to lift a burden but I will warn you that it is a lot like painting a house.
Anyone can paint a house but you will notice that there are still a lot companies that do it as a business and they don't have a shortage of clients.
Doing it well and doing it at a competitive price are a different skill set than dipping the brush in the bucket and get the wood wet.

Thousands have picked up the addiction to melting glass ( and it is very addictive ) but you may want to stop and think of the number of lampwork artists whose name you know right now. Getting your name out among that list wont happen over night.
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Last edited by Speedslug; 2015-06-01 at 7:31pm.
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  #10  
Old 2015-06-01, 8:39pm
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Hi! Certainly having a niche market and a specific product will help a lot towards your goal of starting a business. I will say that it is inexpensive to start, then expensive to build up. Skills take time! But it can be done, sure! Make sure you have a good marketing plan and if you want a faster start than those of us that taught ourselves, I would look at investing in a class. That may take a bit of work, as everyone is quite spread out. Perhaps go to one of the FB pages for lampworkers, tips and techniques? or supplies for the lampwork beadmaker. There are lots of folks from England online there. ALso Frit Happens is a UK forum, might be some good local information there as well. Good luck!
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  #11  
Old 2015-06-04, 8:29pm
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A humorous, though accurate, take on it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR_lc8wqyaw
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  #12  
Old 2015-06-05, 10:40am
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The follow up is great too, Tom.
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Old 2015-06-09, 11:41am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menty666 View Post
A humorous, though accurate, take on it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR_lc8wqyaw
I can't stop laughing! I so totally relate to these two videos!! Thanks I needed a laugh today!
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Old 2015-06-09, 11:27pm
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omg those videos!

^^^good advice up there, it's not easy, not going to lie.
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  #15  
Old 2015-06-10, 5:24am
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I took a course at my local community college when I was thinking of starting my own small business. It was so helpful and included all kinds of practical useful advice.
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Old 2015-06-10, 8:26am
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If I didn't love it, and it was just a job, I'd have quit a hundred times by now.
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Old 2015-06-10, 11:10am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menty666 View Post
A humorous, though accurate, take on it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR_lc8wqyaw
that vid is priceless! and also happens to be about how 90% of the public seems to think in regards to what we do.

it ain't easy, or lucrative.
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Old 2015-06-10, 11:38am
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I have yet to meet a full time, single income beadmaker who drives a new car.
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Old 2015-06-10, 3:45pm
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In my Glory Years, with lots of shows and sales, I was able to manage enough profit after expenses to pay my medical insurance. Haven't been able to do that for the last 7 or 8 years, dammit...
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Old 2015-06-12, 11:39pm
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Ive been doing this for about 7 years and i only consider myself good enough to sell beads in the last year or so - extrapolated out over the last 7 years of learning its not really profitable
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Old 2015-06-16, 8:02am
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I always tell people who ask me about it that going into lampworking with the goal of making lots of money is not necessarily the best way to go. This is an art that takes a decent $$ investment (if you're to make it into a business and be safe about it), and a lot of time and energy. Eventually, if you have some amount of talent and an eye for what sells, you can make some money at it. However, that can take years of practice, and you also need to have decent marketing and business skills and not a small amount of luck and good timing. Most beadmakers I know of that make a decent living doing this also teach, write and travel to show their art. In my view, you need to be willing to sacrifice some years of not making much money at all to get to a place where you earn any kind of substantial money. Personally, after 13 years, I make enough money to add to a two-income household and keep doing what I love. I in no way would be able to support myself if I were doing this as my only source of income. And I have had really good luck with sales over the years. So take that for what it's worth.
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Old 2015-06-21, 4:06am
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A few years ago there was similar question posted and it included a picture of a necklace..one of this girls first projects and she was asking for help pricing it.The necklace consisted of 3 small handmade beads..a few crystal beads and some misc Fire Mountain beads and components.She first stated that she was new to lampworking and was expecting to clear 30 dollars an hour when she worked.That pretty much shocked me but when she said she was going to be asking at least 175 dollars for her first necklace I about fell over.Even more shocking at the time were the compliments and agreements on the pricing of the necklace.It is refreshing to read this post and read honest practical comments.When I became interested,I overbought supplies..had no idea what COEs were and just bought whatever I thought was pretty but at the same time I was watching people bidding 2 or 3000 for lampwork jewelry on EBAY.I did not research anything much personally and although over the last 8 years I have learned a lot..I sincerely wish I had asked a lot more questions before jumping in.Good luck in your endevour Sally and never stop asking questions.There are so many helpful people here on LE..I wish I had known about if when I started
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Old 2015-07-04, 6:07am
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https://uglibeads.wordpress.com/2015...eenie-factory/
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Old 2015-07-04, 8:36am
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Excellent read Shawnette.

Good find.
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Old 2015-07-04, 11:17am
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Thanks Shawnette. Timely read, even though I'd read it before, to remind me not to undervalue myself as I price things for summer shows.
And on that note, this was in Seth Godin's blog today:

"As soon as we can afford it, as soon as we care, we pay extra for beauty."
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Old 2015-07-04, 2:57pm
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Shawnette and Menty666, thanks a lot, it is all in there, in these videos and the article )
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Old 2015-07-05, 7:45pm
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If I was in your shoes, considering this business, I would subcontract out the beadmaking, given you have the contacts, and in the meantime get your marketing in place and take a class so you can see if you have a knack for it. Its not an easy skill and working with cremains is SO UNPREDICTABLE.
However there is nothing to stop you from going forward. Worse case scenario, you will lose a lot of money and burn yourself. You can recover from that.
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Old 2015-07-10, 9:49am
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Having done exactly what you're considering for the past 13 years, I'd like to offer some thoughts based on my own experiences.

1. Get comfortable with bead making in general before you try to make cremain beads. As several people have noted, not all ashes are the same consistency and they can be hard to incorporate correctly, even for an experienced lampworker. You might even consider, as an alternative, learning how to make hollow vessels and put the cremains in after the fact.
2. In my experience, pet owners who order custom cremain beads have a very specific outcome in mind. I found the best way to be realistic is to show samples of a half dozen designs/colors you are comfortable with and that look the best. Cremains get lost in dark colors and really require encasement skills. Encased light colors, like ivory, especially when combined with silver foil and/or metallic reactive glasses, look really beautiful.
3. Be careful about how you promote European charm-style beads, like Trollbeads or Pandora. The companies come down hard on anyone using their names to promote products. Additionally, the mandrels you need to make this size of a bead are much heavier than traditional 3/32 bead mandrels - if it's your plan to use these exclusively, I'd suggest learning on the heavier mandrels from the beginning.
4. As for profitability, I used to earn a substantial income from both lampwork bead making and memorial charms, but I have found that increasing competition of cheaply mass-produced beads has significantly cut into that earing potential. Having some marketing skills and several selling outlets is vital. After you're set up with your basic gear, supplies purchased in bulk are less costly. Also, get to know the prices of glass... you can find lampwork glass ranging from $6-$125 a pound. I personally buy a lot in the $6-$15 range and supplement with small amounts of more expensive glasses/frits/powders/foils/enamels as decoration. Keeping your costs down is essential.

I do wish you good luck... I, too started lampworking as a hobby and turned it into a business to spend more time with my kids, and had many wonderful profitable years. Consider writing an old fashioned business plan to help you determine your startup and operating needs/costs and go from there!
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