Remember the book “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum? It was a neat summary of simple lessons we learn when we’re young but need to be reminded of from time-to-time, lessons like: sharing, being fair, and saying you’re sorry. Fulghum also said: “Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away…It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours.”
MJSA Expo New York, the trade show for jewelry makers and designers, constitutes a perfect arena for that kind of information sharing. It goes on between vendors and their customers, between seminar speakers and their audiences, and in the countless one-on-one conversations that take place between jewelry makers and designers during the three days while the trade show is open.
What Expo leaves in our minds is a unique mixture of increased knowledge and resources and an expanded network of colleagues and friends. I am witness to this “moveable feast” as MJSA’s Director of Public Affairs and so, for those of you who could not attend, here’s what I saw and learned!
Custom-made jewelry is still a winner.
The consumer drive to customize everything, from sneakers to t-shirts, is a trend that also continues to help jewelry makers and designers succeed, according to two of the most well-known and widely respected custom jewelers in the business, Lee Krombholz of Krombholz Fine Jewelry in Cincinnati, OH, and Jim Tuttle of Green Lake Jewelry Works in Seattle, WA. To catch the two of them together at Expo was like seeing royalty! Both serve on MJSA’s Custom Jeweler Advisory Council and are regularly interviewed in our quarterly publication, MJSA Custom Jeweler.
It’s great to meet social networking friends face-to-face.
Like Lee and Jim, I found myself again and again meeting up with folks at Expo that I rarely, if ever, get to see in person. But because we’re friends on social networks like Facebook, or via a blog like this one, we greet each other like it was old home week! Tyler Teague is a well-known jewelry manufacturing expert and owner of Jett Research and Precious Metal Casting Consultants in Johnson City, Tennessee.
To design jewelry that sells, you need to understand fashion.
Trend forecaster Barbara Raleigh, president of New York-based International Design Source Ltd., offered Expo shoppers an overview of the latest fashion trends and how to apply them to jewelry. Here’s Barbara after her presentation, with a group of avid fans. Some takeaways from her talk: TV shows like Downton Abbey and upcoming films like The Great Gatsby are keeping jewelry from the 1920s in style. That means long necklaces, pearls of all kinds, elongated drop earrings, and colors like black, ivory, jade, and coral. But there’s also a lot of interest in 1970s fashion, she says, which translates to chunky necklaces and earrings, big cuffs, yellow metals, and lots of browns and greens. Barbara also said she repeatedly saw cameos and serpents on fashion runways this year!
Every jeweler needs a critic to help with online marketing.
The audience at the seminar “Critique My Website, Please!” were writing or typing madly as Rio Grande’s marketing manager Eugene Brill shared tips and hints. Eugene had a live Internet connection so he could critique a number of jewelers’ websites in real time. He has a knack for making jewelers feel good about how they’re marketing online, while also suggesting constructive improvements. Among Eugene’s top tips: Resist the urge to “over-design” your website—white backgrounds with dark text are still best (dark backgrounds with light text are hard to read). Make sure your website loads quickly on most computers—another reason to keep design simple. Don’t place too much information “below the fold” (the area of your page that’s not visible on most computer screens without scrolling down).
There’s always a new bench trick to learn!
Arthur Skuratowicz, director of education at the Jewelry Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, holding up the lowly pencil during his presentation for MJSA At the Bench Live. Arthur shared favorite tools and tricks of the trade, many gleaned from the MJSA Press book Secret Shop Weapons. He explained how, by hollowing out a pencil, he could use the outer part to slip over small cylindrical tools to achieve a better finger grip. He also demonstrated how to hold gemstones in place during channel setting by using Play-Doh. The benefit? It doesn’t melt like wax, and it easily dissolves in an ultrasonic or steamer afterwards. Would you like to learn more? Check out Secret Shop Weapons, at MJSA Press.
The kids are okay.
At a session called “Generation Next: The Future of Jewelry Making & Design,” three industry educators and experts talked about how the next generation of jewelry makers and designers needs to be prepared with both basic skills and technological savvy. It was a lively debate that often erupted in laughter, as you can see above. Moderated by Andrea Hill of StrategyWerx, the panel included (l-r) Arthur Skuratowicz; Patricia Madeja (a working designer and jewelry professor at the Pratt Institute of Fine Arts in Brooklyn); and Tyler Teague. Best tips for the young’uns? Don’t be afraid to take a low-paying, entry-level job at the beginning, where you can apprentice with experts and learn what it’s like to make jewelry in real world situations. No matter how much you learn in school, there’s still a lot of knowledge to acquire when you get to the workplace.
You have to share aisle space, be patient, and wait your turn.
Out on the show floor at Expo, there were a lot of jewelry makers and designers sharing a fairly small space and vying for exhibitors’ attention as far as the eye could see! Everyone seemed to be playing nicely, however, using those skills they learned in kindergarten. Nice to see that the boys and girls in our industry were paying attention.
Good company presidents know how to operate the equipment.
Here’s Rio Grande’s president Alan Bell at the Rio booth during Expo, showing several attendees how to operate a hydraulic press that the company had on display. Way to show those eye-hand coordination skills, Alan!
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
On the final day of Expo, MJSA once again hosted the finale of the Future of Design Contest, created by the Jeweler’s Resource Bureau and StrategyWerx. This unique competition encourages jewelry designers to improve their business skills. Three finalists present their strategies before a team of judges who then choose a winner. The prize? Business advice and services for a year, worth $250,000!
The 2013 winner, G&G Creations, a Boston, MA, design firm, came very close to winning the 2012 competition, so they decided to try again. This year, they captured the prize! In this photo, you can see their palpable joy. That’s G&G partner Vahé Ghararian on the left, hugging Future of Design founder Cindy Edelstein, while partner Esin Guler hugs another friend on the right. Their persistence and belief in themselves are the greatest lessons worth remembering from kindergarten.