X is for Xerox (AtoZ 2016)

One of the slightly frustrating things about metal clay is that it’s not a reproducible process. I can’t make exact copies (or “xeroxes” :)) of any of the beads that I make.

It doesn’t really bother me since I am making the beads for myself and I don’t usually buy duplicates of beads anyway. But, a few times people have said that they would buy my beads if I sold them. While I’m flattered, and sometimes tempted, I’ve never followed through for two reasons.

  1. While I could probably make similar beads, they wouldn’t be the same. They would be longer/shorter/fatter/taller/whatever. And maybe those small differences would add up so people who liked the original wouldn’t like the copy.
  2. There are also no economies of scale with metal clay. Each copy would take just as long as the original one. I don’t have that much time to make the beads that I want for myself, so I don’t really have the extra time to make beads for other people.

By contrast, bead companies can make exact copies of any of their silver beads (and much more quickly) because they make theirs from molds. They start with wax, which they carve the design from. Then, they make a master mold from the wax (which destroys the wax). Finally, each bead is cast from the same master mold. That’s a simplified explanation of the process, but the point is that while the casting and finishing processes can give minor variations, each bead essentially looks the same. And, after the work of designing and carving the original is done, the copies are much quicker to make.

It’s why I seldom order glass beads online; I want to know what I’m going to get, and there’s so much variation in the glass beads. But, it certainly makes it much easier to order silver beads online, knowing that the copy I receive is going to look exactly like the stock photo.

One day I’d like to try wax carving, but right now I’m still having fun with my metal clay making unique beads for myself.

Do you prefer to have unique items that no-one else has, or do you like the security of knowing that what you buy can be reproduced if you need multiples or break or lose something?


    1. Yes, there is a certain allure to owning something that someone has put special effort into making :) Making my own beads has also given me an appreciation for the beadmakers who can put such small details into their beads! I haven’t managed that level of detail, yet.

      Standard certainly has its uses :)

  1. Great X word and concept for your beads! I’d love to try the lost wax method but not sure I could do wax, mind you I never thought I’d enjoy clay so much!

    Hmmm I love both, besoke is great and so are multiples when you want them, I adore my TB skeleton beads, I want even more of them, but I love that Lenny has inclined head, so not bespoke but he is different to the others.

    I enjoy buying bespoke, and I think it’s one aspect of the glass I’ve learnt to love now, that you can’t recreate exact copies. But I hear you on the difficulties on time and price – I see soooooo many artisan pieces and think you’re selling those way too low. But with mass produced copies people get used to distorted prices (both ways, both too low and too high!).

    Mars xx

    1. It is fun that you can occasionally find a unique silver like Lenny among the otherwise standard offering. :) I really like my little Bee on Hive that has one piece with a missing side. There’s definitely a different level of artistry in bespoke items, though.

    1. Thank you, Susan :) Although I create them for myself, it is nice to hear that others think that my beads are nice, too.

  2. This is something I’d been wondering since the beginning of the month, Tracy—how do you reproduce such painstaking hand-crafted work? And now I have my answer: you don’t :D Which makes every bead you make a work of art, and you, my friend, an artist. I’d totally buy your beads, unique creations that they are… And, if you ever do have the time (and inclination) to market them, you might want to underline that uniqueness. Just look at how popular limited editions of any jewelry brand are. You don’t have to charge Tiffany prices, but I’m sure there’d be people out there willing to pay a little extra for a unique piece of work.

    It’s been so wonderful to learn about this process throughout the month, Tracy. I look forward to staying in touch post-April :)
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

  3. Thank you Guilie :) Although materials aren’t that much, it is a hard thing to price your time. But, the time sometimes flies when I’m excited about a bead!

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