Support Fair Trade Jewelry Artisans – Mien Tribe – During Fair Trade Month

October is well known as breast cancer awareness month, it is lesser known as Fair Trade month. Fair Trade can be supported by:

- Purchasing goods which are designated fair trade products and/or produced by fair trade organizations
- Learning more about Fair Trade and Fair Trade Artisans

In a previous article the Karen Tribe was highlighted as one such group of fair trade jewelry producers. In this article, another fair trade jewelry artisan group the Mien will be featured.

The lu Mien are heavily influenced by Chinese culture and are believed to have originated from southern China. At least a million Mien are still living in China with settlements also found in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. In Thailand the Mien are primarily residing to the north of Chiang Rai or Phavao province.

At the latter half of the 19th century, the lu Mien arrived in Thailand from Laos. Unlike many other tribes, there are no sub-tribal groups within the Mien population. As a result there is little difference in the customary dress and appearance among the group. A woman’s outfit would include a black turban and a red ruff which has the appearance of a boa even though it is sewn into the front part of the tunic’s collar. The woman’s pants are heavily embroidered and are worn underneath a black or dark blue colored tunic that extends to the ankle. The outfit is tied with a wide sash. Women and children also wear silver neck rings with chains of silver ornaments attached that extend down their back.

For the Mien silver jewelry is more than an adornment, it is also a statement of status and wealth. The silver jewelry worn by a young Mien woman helps a suitor to decide on a prospective bride. Skilled silversmiths handcraft silver into intricate chains and petite flowers creating exquisite pieces of handmade silver jewelry that a Mien bride will wear in a heavy cascade down her back.

Many fair trade jewelry retailers support the Mien jewelry artisans and in doing so help maintain the high craft skills of a justly product ethnic culture while also enabling them to earn an income to support their families.

Consider supporting fair trade artisans when you purchase products especially during fair trade month in October.

Age Specific Target Marketing for Jewelry Artisans

To many of us jewelry artists the term ‘target market’ simply goes in one ear and out the other. I can’t speak for all of us… but I create for the sake of creation first and then look to share and sell my creations. Therefore I hadn’t put thought into my ‘target market’… it was more a blind than targeted thing.

However it is a good idea to evaluate who is the largest consumer of your jewelry so you know how to best market it. My style seems to appeal largely to women who are 39+… I have noticed this from my time at fairs and through some of the regular customers I have acquired. Yes plenty of younger women like my jewelry as well, but my main demographic is 39+. Now you may ask how can this knowledge benefit me? There are many ways.

Once I have identified my ‘target market’ I can decide if this is whom I want to keep marketing too. I can focus my creations to continue to appeal to this clientele… or I can move to make my designs different and wilder to draw a younger clientele. This decision can be based on who I think is more likely to purchase more of my work at the price it is available.

I myself haven’t changed any designs in order to focus on one group or another. I throw this concept out for all the handmade jewelry artists looking to start a business, as it is a good starting point. After evaluating my audience I personally am confident in the clientele I already have as they have purchasing power and a willingness to spend.

Now what audience do you have? And how do you best appeal to them. Here is the best way to find out. Attend a few craft fairs… I recommend this anyhow as it is a good way to get exposure. Also you can get a feel for your customers by seeing who spends the most time admiring your designs, and who is purchasing your jewelry.

If you are attracting a younger clientele you can still sell a lot of jewelry. However from personal experience your price points must be lower for a younger audience. I believe they are more likely to purchase with less thought… if an item is inexpensive. If you make costume beaded jewelry and easy inexpensive designs than this is your audience. Make your work bold and flashy and you will do well. However if you find that the younger crown ‘oh and ah’ at your work without purchase and the older crowd completely passes it over you should probably rethink your strategy. Make it less expensive by changing the materials you use… or rethink your designs to appeal to a different crowd.

This area can take a bit of trial an error… but knowing to be aware is a little bit of knowledge that goes a long way. You don’t really need to change your art for your clientele as I understand we all create our passion. However knowing will help you decide if your best method of advertising is at craft fairs or in social media… would you do better to make a bright hip website, or a classic uncluttered one. Yes small differences, but when you step back and look they are important ones to consider… and target marketing will make your decisions all the easier.