Friday, August 24, 2007

Annette Piper

Annette Piper creates beautifully classic one-of-a-kind and limited jewelry featuring gemstones and pearls. Based in Australia, Annette started selling her work locally in 2004 and eventually expanded to shows in neighboring areas in 2005. She was a gemologist for a number of years before she started designing and making jewelry from her home studio.

Annette is inspired by nature, legends, and art. Her passion and dedication to creating quality pieces has led her to source gems from all over the world, ensuring that her customers can find the right piece of jewelry for that special occasion or for every day wear.

Background in Jewelry
“After finishing high school I started work in the jewellery trade, working for a manufacturing jeweller. After a couple of years I decided to do a course in gemology and gained my Diploma of Gemology in 1986 from the Australian Gemological Association. I kept working in the trade until 1989 when I married and repeated moves with my military husband made it easier to work in other fields.”

“Having a background in the trade has been invaluable. I already knew a lot of the ‘tricks of the trade’ by being around a workshop environment. Studying gemology and having a passion for gemstones has defined the type of jewellery I create, [and] makes me more confident when purchasing stones and fosters a confidence in my clients that they are dealing with someone who knows their trade.”

Typical Customer
“My typical customer would be a women over 35 years – one who has confidence in who she is and knows what she likes. She appreciates quality and something a little different yet doesn’t like to stray too far from timeless style.”

Balancing Parenthood and Business
“I have three children. I work during school times and after the children are in bed. During holidays and weekends I can do a bit of work if I have orders or need to prepare for a show. I have been working at my bench since the children were quite small so they are quite used to me working there – they come and watch for a while, ask a few questions and then wander off again!”

Business Challenges
“Falling into a ‘no mans land’ category in the jewellery field. I am not a jeweler – as a rule (at least here in Australia) they emphasize the metal and the stones are an embellishment, whereas I have all the emphasis on the stones/pearls. But on the other hand, I am not a ‘beader’ either as I only use gemstones and pearls. However I do tend to appeal to people who can appreciate the fact that I am different whilst still retaining a stylish/elegant feel.”

“Getting my target market online – a lot of Australia is still not online! Finding suitable places to market my site are a constant frustration – they tend to be aimed at the younger, hip end of the spectrum which is probably the majority of users down here!”

“Finding suitable high-end shows are also a problem. The majority are either * big business/aimed at the wholesale/gift trade, * limited to an art gallery exhibition or * at the other end of the spectrum at a market/fair level – none of which are particularly suitable for my jewellery! Once again this is more of a result of how things work in Australia – ‘indie’ is a bit of an odd concept to most and ‘craft’ means potpourri bags and unprofessional workmanship (note, cities do have a small presence of ‘indie’ but its small and only slowly gathering momentum). There is a real need for the public here to be educated on how much better hand crafted items can be and more shows held to showcase the talent we undoubtedly have tucked away!”

“Overcoming the perception by family and friends that they could have anything they wanted for free! The more I sell, the less they ask for now!”

Selling Outlets
“At a local artisan outlet, online and in person. I also have three retailers – a bricks and mortar boutique, a gallery and an online gift store.”

Landing a Wholesale Account
“A client of mine was wearing my jewellery and was asked by a boutique owner where she had got it – so I got an email from the boutique owner, quite unexpectedly! The next boutique owener saw my jewellery at a show and thought it was perfect for her store. The gallery owner found me online and I gained the online gift boutique via a business forum.”

Show Experiences
“ I have exhibited at a local jazz festival for the last couple of years and although not run off my feet, it was certainly worthwhile attending. I have done private shows and these are always well received and great fun to do – meeting lots of new people and getting wonderful feedback on my jewellery is very satisfying!”

“My worst ‘show’ was a local market – I had a feeling it wouldn’t be suitable but apparently I had been requested. Well, whoever requested me forgot to turn up!!!! It was a disaster!”

Pricing Items
“I don’t do the standard markups – I use a formula as a guideline which takes into account the time taken and the cost of materials, but will go up or down depending on the item and what the market will bear. As I live in a rural area my clients aren’t prepared to pay as much as someone who lives in the city. Some items also take a lot of time to make – I can’t possibly charge the full amount of my labour or no one would buy it – so I take a hit on some items and make a bit more on others to even it all out.”

Ways of Marketing Products
Online – directories and press releases, having your signature in emails and business forums - these all bring prospective clients to my site. I have an irregular newsletter that I send out to subscribers and clients. Elsewhere – print media, letterbox drops, word of mouth. Letterbox drops for a specific event have worked brilliantly. Print media hasn’t proved to be cost effective at all. Word of mouth is still the best advertising.”

Low-Cost Advertising
“[I participate] in business forums that allow your website to be listed in your signature. I also have a cross promotion arrangement with a gift store – I provide some small items of jewellery and discount coupons for the store to give to their clients (that meet my target market) as a ‘bonus’. In return they provide me with some samples and some discount vouchers. I include their sample and voucher with my online sales and a voucher in my carry bag for all in-person sales. This has yet to generate sales that can be identified as coming from this method, but it all has to help!”

Recommended Business Resources
Bruce Baker’s CD’s are invaluable for selling at shows!
Yahoo group – Marketing Artisan Jewellery
Yahoo group – Joolcrafting
Australian business forum –
US creative business forum –
Australian jewellery forum –
Marketing websites -,

Inspired by…
”Looking into gemstones – each stone can be its own little world with its patterns, inclusions, colour(s), lustre, and so on. Art and mythology also have an effect on my designs and combinations. I also love old movies and movie stars of the 40 and 50s – when women were typically portrayed as stylish and elegant.”

Words of Advice-Know, Research, and Present your Product Well
“Research your market – if what you are making doesn’t appeal, then you have to seek out your target market, or you have to change what you are making to fit the market you CAN sell to.”

“Pay attention to the details. If you notice, chances are someone else will as well.”

“Know your product and be able to answer any questions about what has gone into the finished product.”

“Presentation is paramount to enhancing your image. Dress and present your goods according to your target market.”


1 comment:

jacob said...

I have always been curious about functionality in websites and, well, the world in general. I read this article with great interest. It does seem to me that the reason we comment is to speak our minds so why not have the comment field first? However, as others have pointed out, one gets used to the conventions regardless of reason.
online marketing