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.
- 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.
- 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?