A comment from my CyberFriend Zoe yesterday suggested that I might do only custom orders for flower beads. It reminded me that I haven't really talked about the custom order thing in a long time, and there are probably quite a few of you who wonder why I won't do custom work. So many topics are blog-worthy, and I think this is one of them. So here's my story...
Since very early in my beadmaking life, I've had a couple of rules that have kept me (relatively) sane. "No Schools or Churches" is the first one. It became clear very quickly that I would not find my customers in these shows, surrounded by plastic canvas kleenex box covers, painted ceramic angels, and crocheted pot holders. Rule Number 2 is "No Custom Orders," and while it's every bit as important as the first Rule, it's the one I tend to break every now and then, just to test it... or myself.
My first custom order came from a friend of my sister's, many years ago. She was a bride, who wanted a necklace to wear with her slinky cream colored velvet wedding dress. She "knew exactly" what she wanted - a strand of small, clear beads with little white flowers. A simple enough request, so I agreed to do it, made a few sample beads, and mailed them to her. I got them back, with a note asking for a "little more color"... So I tried pale colored backgrounds with white flowers, and sent her several more. They came back. And we did this several more times, until she finally asked for dark green with white flowers - a far cry from the clear and white she was sure she wanted in the beginning.
I made the green and white necklace, and she was very happy with it. I, on the other hand, was super frustrated, and had spent so much time on it that I could never be paid for all the work (and postage). I ended up gifting it to her as a wedding present, and made a bracelet for myself out of all the rejected beads. I still have it, and I pull out the No Custom Orders Bracelet every so often, to remind myself of why I have this rule.
But did I learn from this? Not exactly. Time and again I have weakened and agreed to do a custom bead or piece of jewelry for someone who, of course, "knew exactly what they wanted." Like the friend who wanted a big bead in gold and black. Against my better judgement, I got out the gold foil, and made three beads for her to choose from. This is another peril of custom orders. I know I can't "see" the vision of what someone else wants, so I make several versions, hoping to get it right. Then I'm left with the others to try to sell. In this case, my friend brushed right by the beads I had made for her, and zeroed in on a huge purple and turquoise bead instead. At least she bought something, but it took me three years to find homes for those gold and black ones.
There are several more stories like these, but thankfully, not too many. Every now and then I ignore my own rule, only to be reminded once again that custom orders never work in my favor. They always take far more time, and make me far less money than just making and selling what inspires me. I know some people thrive on the challenge of custom work. I am not one of them, and that's a good thing to know about oneself.
Another friend has just reminded me of the Henry Ford quote, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." I love that. And it's so true. Most people have no idea what they want. It's up to the creative people of the world to show them. When it comes to beads, the people with true "bead vision" usually learn to make them themselves, and share that unique vision with the world.
So if you've wondered over the years, why I'm so adamant about my No Custom Orders rule, well, now you know. I think I've finally learned my lesson. Go ahead, test me. I'm actually very good now at the Clear and Loving No, as in No custom orders, no way in the world, but thank you very much for asking.