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Life of a Jewelry Designer: Labor Outsourcing

By Michelle Ecker on August 17, 2015

Serena Van Rensselaer was originally a student of Art History and Cultural Anthropology, but while studying abroad in San Miguel D’Allende, she discovered her untapped passion and aptitude for jewelry design. She is now an inspired creator, perceptive businesswomen and shrewd gallery manager in Manhattan’s picturesque Soho neighborhood. We recently visited Serena’s gallery and spent the afternoon speaking with her about the industry.

Here is part seven of our series, “Life of a Jewelry Designer.”

Life of a Jewelry Designer: Labor Outsourcing

In a field as immense as jewelry design, comparison is unsurprisingly a huge factor in client retention. Hobbyists and crafters update Etsy shops and reserve tables at trunk shows every day- a reality that creates a great deal of artistic pressure, especially when coupled with constant trend fluctuations. Attempting to stand apart becomes difficult in a market where one month’s trend is next month’s cliché and innovative stylists are as abundant as your bead collections.

As a means of handling that pressure, many designers make the decision to outsource their product manufacturing labor. Nearly 30 thousand jobs categorized as ‘art and design-related’ have been outsourced overseas this year alone- a number that can understandably generate some intimidation for aspiring artists. In her early years selling at markets, Serena remembers feeling that same pressure.

“So many of my competitors in the showroom were having things made in other countries,” she remembers. “The finished products were all based on those designers’ concepts and inspirations, but they were made by someone else.”

Life of a Jewelry Designer: Labor Outsourcing

Outsourcing obviously frees up a significant amount of time an artist would typically spend on production. This can be extremely helpful for those more interested in the entrepreneurial aspect of the industry, as this newly available time can subsequently be spent on promotional planning, marketing tactics and sales analysis.

But for many fervent artists who pursue jewelry design as a personal passion, this simply isn’t an option. “A lot of us do what we do because we like to physically create,” Serena explains. “To me it wouldn’t matter whether or not the outsourced designs were based on my ideas- I would need to be the one putting them together. They were my visions. I would want to be the one to execute them. That’s the part I love, and that’s why I made this my career.”

When establishing yourself as an upcoming designer, it’s important to make these personal distinctions. Outsourcing jewelry creation will have a tremendous effect on your time management, budget, and most importantly, your daily tasks. If you dream of spending your afternoons in a studio, browsing design inspirations, pinning magazine clippings and wire wrapping new accessories- outsourcing will likely leave you feeling artistically deprived. But if your career visions involve powerful business command, marketing prowess and viral advertising popularity, outsourcing could be an extremely practical way for you to materialize your design visions without sacrificing a commitment to business.

Want to learn more? The New York Institute of Art and Design offers an online jewelry making course that can teach you how to create and sell your own unique line of jewelry. Request your free course catalog today!