These days, one hears much about the rise of the gig economy. One day you may jump into an Uber and discover the driver is your old schoolteacher out hustling a few bucks. But for jewelers, the side hustle is nothing new. Jewelers have always been multi-faceted, changing their offerings to meet changing needs and changing customers, whether that means using their metalworking skills to design a rodeo belt buckle, repair a lamp, or (as is often the case here in South Louisiana) create Mardi Gras crowns and tiaras.
New generations enter the business, and they bring new methods of supplementing their business and attracting customers. One trend gaining popularity is educational offerings. We hear about the insatiable demand for custom work, but there are many not content to stop there—they take the process a step further and get involved. They desire an experience. This is where education and business flexibility come in.
Meet Johanna Ingram
Some jewelers do jewelry full time and offer education on the side. Others have mastered the art of adaptation and built their business model around education yet continue to design and sell their own pieces.
Arizona jeweler Johanna Ingram, owner and operator of Harold Studio, is among the latter. Encouraged to pursue jewelry-making by the studio’s namesake, her “Grandpa Harold,” Johanna honored his supportive nature by creating an equally supportive learning environment. Harold Studio supports a spectrum of jewelry creators, offering supplies, studio space, and tools for rent for fellow jewelers; group and private classes for artisans looking to improve their craft; and co-creation for engaged couples.
Designer • Teacher • Businesswoman
Johanna Ingram bends her teaching style to her students. Be it an aspiring hobbyist who’s never seen a soldering iron or an artisan looking to boost their polishing skills. She offers step-by-step, one-on-one attention to give students the confidence to push themselves and try something new. Perfection isn’t the key here—not giving up is. Harold Studio’s Facebook proudly shines with the creations of students who stuck through the process.
The potential to turn these skills into a lifelong hobby or career is what appeals to many. One former Harold Studio student took what she learned from Johanna, created her own business from those skills, and continued the legacy of supporting industry newcomers. “There is a woman who came here in some of our earlier days,” recounts Johanna Ingram. “She [now] has a business with several employees . . . and she teaches some Etsy classes here. She has well over 20,000 items sold on Etsy and sells online in her own shop now.”
Crafting with Couples
With the rise of Etsy, jewelry has never been more accessible and appealing to new demographics. This has increased the demand for jewelry education, particularly silversmithing and stone-setting classes. “There are tons of beginning jewelers cropping up now, and that is something you can really capitalize on,” Johanna says. And capitalize on it she has. In addition to offering group classes and one-on-one training, Johanna offers a fully guided, participative experience through the creation of jewelry for couples wanting to design and create their rings.
Despite most couples’ unfamiliarity with jewelry-making, Johanna makes the process as seamless and non-intimidating as possible. Couples explain their ideas, and Johanna devises a game plan. She guides the process, assuring nervous clients that any mistakes won’t tarnish the final product. “Johanna was very reassuring that there was no way we could mess up beyond repair,” says one Facebook reviewer. Browsing Harold Studio’s online reviews reveal many more satisfied couples.
Letting couples lead the creation process builds lasting loyalty and forges lifelong memories. By removing the intangible barrier between dream and production, the barrier between customer and jeweler dissolves, allowing for the formation of a deeper bond that retains customer loyalty. When asked where they bought their rings, Johanna’s clients can boast, “We created them together at Harold Studio.”
With new consumers and technology entering and changing the nature of our industry, it’s worth remembering education is a powerful way to attract new markets and freshen your business. Be it offering private jewelry classes, guiding couples through ring co-creation, or giving an informal lecture on silversmithing, providing learning opportunities may be what you need to set your business apart. Read more about hosting your own customer events here
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