When we work on new samples, there are two important components that go into working out the costing. One of them (and the most important) is the length of time it takes to make the item. This translates into the earnings that will be paid to the artists when they start producing the product on order, and is one part of the costing where we can’t really budge. In a mechanised environment, production is costed in ‘economies of scale’ as it will work out cheaper per piece to make a huge run vs a small run when setting up expensive machinery / moulds / screens. When items are made by hand, it takes the same amount of time to make one unit once-off, or the same item a thousand times over. The other item to consider when working out a costing is the raw materials used. The beads, wire and additional components all have a cost attached and these need to be considered.
Some materials may be more expensive than others, but they can be used in ways that make the product quicker (and cheaper to make), while other materials may be as cheap as chips, but are used for highly intricate and detailed work only.
Here we discuss some techniques and styles to give you an idea of what makes for a very pricey piece, and what makes for a more economical way to achieve a similar look or feel.
This is the perfect way to embrace the original form of this craft, and go for a full wire product. There’s a lot that can be done using just wire on a practical and artistic level. The shape can be manipulated to look like a line-drawing, or can de very detailed and decorative. If the plain wire colour is not speaking to you, bear in mind that effects such as rusting, or epoxy-coating can be done to add an aged look, or some colour,.
Copper wire is a great way to add a nice warm highlight of colour without using beads. Copper wire is more costly than galvanised wire, and is also much softer, so it is best suited for small products, or as a touch of detail on larger products. It is too soft to be used for the actual frame (or shaping) of the products, and only comes in fairly thin gauges, so it’s best to use it sparingly in a design.
Scooby or random wire wrap
Similar to copper in cost, softness and gauge, Scooby wire (telephone wire) is a great way to add colour to a product if you prefer not to go with beads. The actual wire comes in cords enclosing a mixture of colours. There is a bit of labour involved in opening the cords and separating the colours, so the most efficient use of this material is to allow for a mixture of colours for the items you order so that there is no wastage. While we don’t specialise in the intricate weaving of this Scooby wire, which is endemic to Kwazulu-Natal (like the baskets one finds), we do use this material for detailing smaller products, and often in a ‘random wrap’ style.
When it comes to adding beadwork to your product, the sky is literally the limit with techniques available. Here’s a run-down on some of them.
Random wrap with beads
This is a great technique for adding some beadwork to open areas in a subtle way. Random wrap is a fairly quick technique to do, so is more cost-effective than fully-beading the same area, and can be quite pleasing on the eye.
This is a great beading technique that wraps around wire shapes and provides a soft, textured finish and also bulks up a product substantially. While it takes considerably more beads than a flat beaded technique, the labour involved is often a little less than more close-knit beading, and is a cost-effective way to incorporate a lot of colour and splash to a 3D product.
This has become the ‘Grande Dame’ of beading, as this technique offers the greatest coverage, smoothness of detail, and ability to mix and blend colours for very realistic finishes. Not surprisingly, this technique is one of the most costly options, but is well worth it for items such as décor pieces and logos.
This is a good option for those on a tight budget, for more stylized designs, or even to add lettering to a logo or small item. I can be quite strikingly beautiful and is often used to add detail.
Wooden beads have not always been available, and we have mostly worked with glass beads for all our products. Recently, we found a source of wooden beads and created a beautiful range of homeware using these beads. While wooden beads are far more costly than glass beads, they are generally bigger in size, so less are used to cover the product. There is a little extra labour involved in beading them, as these beads have to be fed onto the wire one-by-one instead of via our famous ‘spindling’ technique the ladies use for glass beads. These beads are also much lighter than glass beads, making shipping weight (and cost) less for products made with wooden beads. Shipping products made from, or using wood do require fumigation and certification, but with a finish and look being right on trend, our new range has been well adopted by our export customers.
2D vs 3D
When it comes to smalls, (such as keyrings), there is the option to make a full 3D version of your design, or a flat 2D version. The 3D option makes for a very impressive piece for those with a bigger budget. For a more conservative budget, the 2D (flat) version is recommended, and can be just as nice (trust us!)
We hope this helps to inspire you as to how versatile you can be with your ideas when briefing us on product ranges for retail, or for bespoke pieces. There are many amazing techniques and materials we can use. Feel free to chat to us about which ones you would like used on your products.