Pondering the Unique–to OOAK or not to OOAK?

When I conceived my shop, and when I opened it, I was committed to creating 100% one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items.  My reasons were twofold:

First, I’m big on uniqueness all-around.  I like the idea that each piece of jewelry I make is like a novel or a poem or a painting–that there would be only one of them in the world, and someone could own that one special thing.

Second–and probably most importantly–the idea of making the same things over and over again sounds painfully dull to me.  Just call me easily distracted.  Ooh, look–a shiny thing!

Where was I?  Oh, yes, uniqueness.  My original shop welcome message, and every single item description I wrote, proudly proclaimed how “each of my designs is unique/OOAK,” and in the beginning, I really meant to stick by that.

But then some doubt crept in.  First off, there’s a difference between a one-of-a-kind item and a one-of-a-kind design.  OOAK items are not that difficult when you can simply substitute one stone for another–sometimes even the same type of stone can look radically different from one bead to another.  OOAK designs, on the other hand, may get challenging over time.  I mean, if I create a triple-strand choker with a focal bead on one strand, and I stick by my OOAK-design proclamation, I can never create another like that, even if I find a combination of beads that just screams for that design.

So clearly, that was a bad idea.

That left me with an option to go with “OOAK creations,” which is ambiguous enough to mean either design or individual items.  And that seemed okay, but then my family started wanting me to make things that were “like those earrings except with silver instead of copper” or “that necklace but with two turquoise accent beads instead of jasper.”

Erp.

For now, if I fulfill my family’s custom orders, I’m really stretching the “OOAK” label pretty darn thin.  I know it’s technically still true, but the idea of making things that are virtually identical except for a change of a couple stones makes me squirm.

I also am currently in the planning stages of approaching local shop owners about consignment or wholesale deals, a situation in which remaining 100% OOAK would be difficult to manage, at best, and might cost me potential sales of particularly well-loved items, at worst.

Plus, I found that I really liked some of my designs so much I wanted to replicate them for myself, and in fact couldn’t imagine never making them again.

So now, what to do?  Throw my OOAK commitment out the window?

Well, maybe a little.

If you look at my shop now, you will see that my welcome message says “Many of my pieces are unique/OOAK,” and I do intend to stick by that for as long as I remain Particles of Stone.

Individual descriptors also tell you whether the item is OOAK…and if not, then it either isn’t, or might not be; I’m leaving my options open for some items, particularly if I manage to make some consignment or wholesale deals.

I still love the creation of OOAK items, though; I still buy beads in small quantities just so I can create that unique piece, never to return once it leaves my hands.  There’s something beautifully melancholy about sending your creations away to be used and loved by someone else–very sweet, and just the slightest bit bitter, particularly if you know you’ll never make another like it.

I’m curious to know how other artisans have approached this issue–do you do OOAK exclusively?  Partially?  Not at all?  This blog is intended to help newbies, so maybe the experiences of the experienced can be a good touchstone for us when planning our approaches to the biz.

Post your comments/reactions here, or send them to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Until next time, m’dears–au revoire!

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4 comments so far

  1. Martha (Chic Der Frosch) on

    All of my items are OOAK for the shear reason that for me anyways its virtually impossible to get two items that match identically (its why I don’t make very many earrings lol). But your article made me think. I have some original designs that I come close to replicaling and some pieces that are OOAK because I will never be able to replicalte the piece of glass to have that same pattern that makes me think of a wave. I don’t know I think all of my pieces are OOAK.

  2. Tea on

    I don’t make jewelry but I also started my shop selling OOAK items. It took so much time to create a new design and there was also demand for items I’d previously sold, that it was not really worth it to do OOAK exclusively. Now I have just a few OOAK items, and the rest are available in small quantity limited editions. This way I have more time to perfect a single design before adding it to my shop. If someone wants something OOAK they can also custom order it.

  3. Finola Prescott on

    Well, I found you looking for help identifying some rocks I’ve been picking up around my garden, maybe chalcedony, maybe …?

    And look what I find – an article that deals with just the dilemma I face oh so too often and then some!

    OOAK is a wonderful thought if you have clients that will spend Thousands on one piece, otherwise, the design time too often makes the piece too expensive.

    I’ve just posted a 30 Minute Challenge on my blog – feel free to take part – there’s a prize:) It came out of me and my husband both trying to overcome the urge to indulge in creative freedom over production of same or at least largely similar designs:)

    I think the balance of mostly production that follows set designs and allows you to make small changes but gives you the cost effectiveness of batching, rewarded with a smaller amount of the truly creative freedom OOAK work is what will keep us alive in $$ and artistry!

  4. Delectably refashioned on

    Hi I cam across this in a forum. All my items are OOAK it would be impossible for me to make two of anything. That is a down side. I cant really wholesale. And I consign to a few just to get my name out there! I just like the fact that each customer knows there will never be the exact same item out there!


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