Making a living as a beadmaker - production work.
As I'm sure you can imagine making a living as a full time bead maker, like any creative endeavour, is not without its difficulties. Many of the bead makers you see selling don't try to support themselves from bead sales. They have other jobs and make beads in their free time. Others are juggling family commitments and are using bead sales to top up the household income. But there are some of us who don't have other jobs or income and are surviving on the income from our beads.
One way to try and alleviate some of the stress of fluctuating sales or moments (maybe days ) when you lack inspiration or ideas of what to make, is to do production work, making other people's designs to order. It's not something that a lot of makers want to consider. We creative types like to do our own thing. And being sent a couple of sample beads, some rods of glass and some design sheets with the details sketched out along with a request for 150 beads in two weeks time is enough to send many makers running for the hills. Of course if your beads don't match the design, aren't a good shape with nice holes etc then you won't get paid for them. Nevertheless it can be a good option not to mention a good discipline and a way of improving your skills.
I have had a few runs of production work. Years ago I made for a company called Hearts & Crosses. I'm not sure if they are still around. Actually in this case I made my own simple designs, dots, stripes, flowers etc but in set colour-ways and a consistent size.
More recently I've been working for Nalu Beads. If you haven't come across them they are a collectors bead, a bit like Troll or Pandora but without the silver cores, designed to appeal to the younger surfer and also winter sports audiences. They have proved to be very nice to work for. Although they have had their glass beads made abroad in the past, they are in the process of bringing all the production back into the UK which I think is an admirable move and one which will hopefully give them a good selling point as well as providing work for people like me.
One thing I particularly like about making for Nalu is the local links. Many of the designs are named after beaches and locations in Cornwall where I'm based, so most of the beads I am making are named after places nearby. In the latest batch I'm actually making the St Agnes bead, the one on the left (this is where I live) as well as the charity Surfers Against Sewage bead, the one on the right. SAS are based in Wheel Kitty workshops on the outskirts of St Agnes and my sister used to work for them. The other beads shown are Perranporth and Fistral, both local beaches.
Of course there are times that I'd rather be making my own beads. Sometimes even a seemingly simple design doesn't go well. Or I'm under pressure to get the big production order finished and suddenly a whole lot of Make To Order designs on my website or Etsy shops sell. But for the most part I'm pleased to get my production order knowing that once I make and send off the beads I'll get paid rather than having to wait for them to sell. When you don't have job security and a regular payday more than one source of income can be a blessing.